MONTEREY BAY AQUARIUM
Sunday, May 18th, 2014
Almost two weeks after a late night visit to the E.R. for my first Depression/Anxiety attack, I felt that a weekend distraction outside the typical local hiking was well overdue. Julia and I had visited the Monterey Bay aquarium in 2012, but wanted to have another go at it with our newer and nicer camera lenses =)
Rather than running around like maniacs to get a photo of every single thing we could get, we decided to pick just one key subject and then anything else we had time for in the day would come second in priority. This was a pretty solid plan and so the subject we chose was the amazing jellyfish exhibits they had here.
(Check out Julia’s Travel Blog “Monterey Bay Aquarium” for a different take on this awesome day out!) =D
THE JELLYFISH EXHIBIT
“SEA NETTLE JELLIES”
Not all jellies sting, but the sea nettle does. It hunts tiny drifting animals by trailing those long tentacles and frilly mouth-arms, all covered with stinging cells. When the tentacles touch prey, the stinging cells paralyze it and stick tight. From there, the prey is moved to the mouth-arms and finally to the mouth, where it’s digested.
Large and striking, adult purple-striped jellies are silvery white with deep-purple bands. In certain seasons, they mysteriously appear near the shores of Monterey. When the jellies arrive, it’s wise to keep your distance (their sting isn’t fatal, but it can be painful). Young cancer crabs are often found clinging to this jelly, even inside the gut. The crab helps the jelly by eating the parasitic amphipods that feed on and damage the jelly.
The spotted jelly is also known as a “lagoon jelly” because it lives in bays, harbors and lagoons in the South Pacific. It has a rounded bell and four clumps of oral arms with club-like appendages that hang down below. Some of the larger spotted jellies actually have small fishes living with them. The fishes use the inside of a jelly’s bell as protection from larger predators.
“These spotted jellies are slightly different in appearance with broader tentacles, but of the same species”
Also known as the blue jelly, the blubber jelly comes in colors ranging from very light blue to dark purple and burgundy, and its bell pulses in a distinctive, staccatolike rhythm. Eight clublike oral arms that each contain several mouths transport food to the jelly’s stomach.
THE OPEN SEA EXHIBIT
“SCALLOPED HAMMERHEAD SHARK”
With that wide, thick head shaped like a double-headed hammer, it’s easy to identify a hammerhead shark. You can tell it from other hammerheads by the ridges along the front edge of its head. The shark’s eyes and nostrils are located at the extreme ends of its head. Perhaps this unusual shape gives the sharks added lift and lets them make sharper turns than other sharks. The location of the eyes may also allow better stereoscopic vision. The broad shape of the head enables the shark’s sensing organs, called the ampullae of Lorenzini, to find prey buried in the sand
The ocean sunfish or common mola, Mola mola, is the heaviest known bony fish in the world. It has an average adult weight of 1,000 kg (2,200 lb). The species is native to tropical and temperate waters around the globe. It resembles a fish head with a tail, and its main body is flattened laterally. Sunfish can be as tall as they are long when their dorsal and ventral fins are extended. Sunfish live on a diet consisting mainly of jellyfish, but because this diet is nutritionally poor, they consume large amounts to develop and maintain their great bulk.
THE TENTACLES EXHIBIT
Cuttlefish are armed to hunt. When a shrimp or fish is in range, the cuttlefish aims—and shoots out two tentacles to seize its prey. Like their octopus kin, cuttlefish hide from enemies with camouflage and clouds of ink. Cuttlefish don’t live in Monterey Bay; they’re native to the Mediterranean and Eastern Atlantic. They lay their eggs in bunches, each grapelike egg encased in inky jelly. The Aquarium has raised several generations of cuttlefish from egg bunches.
“BIGFIN REEF SQUID”
Like other members of the genus Sepioteuthis, bigfin reef squids are easy to distinguish from other squids in that they possess thick and muscular oval fins that extend around almost the entire mantle. The fins extend about 83 to 97% of the mantle length and are 67 to 70% of the mantle length in width. Because of these fins, bigfin reef squids are sometimes mistaken for cuttlefish, a fact reflected by their scientific names. A narrow blue or white line is visible at the point of attachment of the fins to the mantle. A fleshy ridge is also present where the fins meet at the back of the squid.
THE KELP FOREST EXHIBIT
At 28 feet high, the Kelp Forest is one of the tallest aquarium exhibits in the world. There are many species in this amazing tank including sardines, leopard sharks, wolf-eels and a host of other fishes as they weave through swaying fronds of kelp, just like they do in the wild.
Anchovies are small baitfish that supply supper for many other animals and are an important part of the open ocean food web. They feed on microscopic morsels and then make a meal for passing fishes, marine mammals and seabirds. To avoid hungry predators, anchovies swim in schools of thousands. With all those moving targets, it’s hard for a predator to focus on just one.
This majestic giant of the kelp forest grows faster than tropical bamboo—about 10 to 12 inches in the open sea. Under ideal conditions, giant kelp can grow an astonishing two feet each day.
Held upright by gas-filled bladders at the base of leaf like blades, kelp fronds grow straight up to the surface, where they spread across the top of the water to form a dense canopy. Giant kelp often grows in turbulent water, which brings renewed supplies of nutrients, allowing the plants to grow to a possible height of 175 feet. The stemlike stipes are tough but flexible, allowing the kelp to sway in ocean currents. Unlike a proper root system, the holdfast—a cone shaped mass of branching extensions called haptera—doesn’t carry nutrients or water; it anchors the kelp to a rock.
These big fish typically having a stout body and a large mouth. They are not built for long-distance, fast swimming. They can be quite large, and lengths over a meter and weights up to 100 kg are not uncommon, though obviously in such a large group, species vary considerably. They swallow prey rather than biting pieces off it. They do not have many teeth on the edges of their jaws, but they have heavy crushing tooth plates inside the pharynx. They habitually eat fish, octopuses, and crustaceans. Some species prefer to ambush their prey, while other species are active predators. Reports of fatal attacks on humans by the largest species, the giant grouper are unconfirmed.
Their mouths and gills form a powerful sucking system that sucks their prey in from a distance. They also use their mouths to dig into sand to form their shelters under big rocks, jetting it out through their gills.
Leopard sharks have a reputation for being docile toward people, But they’re not so docile toward invertebrates and small fishes. Leopard sharks are one of the most common sharks along the coast of California. They’re beautiful, slender fish with silvery-bronze skin, patterned with dark ovals that stretch in a neat row across their backs. Sturdy, triangular pectoral fins are matched by two dorsal fins, and a long, tapered tail swishes gracefully back and forth.
Leopard sharks live in shallow waters of bays and estuaries and occasionally patrol the kelp forest, usually staying near the bottom. They are rarely found in water more than 65 feet deep, although they have strayed as deep as 300 feet. At the other extreme, they often follow the high tide to feed on shallow mudflats, then move back out again as the water recedes.
Baby sharks are called pups. Unlike most fish, which lay eggs, mother leopard sharks keep their eggs inside their bodies until they hatch. After 10 to 12 months, she gives birth to a couple dozen wriggling shark pups, each about 7 inches long.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium is far better than the Long Beach Aquarium in Southern California. I will never tire of this place, so a visit to this aquarium is always in the near future for me. Fortunately the lenses I had this time around were superior to the arrangement I had when I first visited this place, so the images are a lot sharper and more crisp. Although this was one of the last of the great photo ventures that I had with Julia, I still enjoyed it very much and perhaps someday I will get to create another travel blog with her again =)
That’s about all for this Travel Blog!, until the next one, remember to “Shoot the Planet!”
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