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Monterey Bay Aquarium

JellyfishJoel took David and me to the Monterey Bay Aquarium today. It is indeed one of the best aquariums in the country. The above picture is of a jellyfish that we saw. The jellyfish exhibit is very soothing as you hear vaguely New Age music while walking through the darkened halls and see the transparent jellyfish made luminescent by colored lights in their tanks. The jellyfish serenely glide through the water by pulsing their bell while poison tipped tentacles trail behind them. They appear to have no sense of direction as they swim upside down, right side up, and sideways. I am always impressed by the fact that the jellyfish- an organism with no heart, brain, or bones- can capture and eat fish.

Our next stop was the sea otter exhibit where lunchtime was in progress. Sea otters are one of my favorite animals. This may be a projection of my human emotions onto an animal, but no other animal better seems to experience a “joie de vivre” like the sea otter. I think that people truly feel happy when watching these elegant swimmers play with toys or laze on their backs eating fish.

The Monterey Bay ecosystem revolves around the food and shelter provided by underwater kelp forests. The Monterey Bay Aquarium has a wonderful “kelp forest” exhibit that helps visitors understand this unique ecosystem. In the huge tank, sinuous wolf eels, black, white, and red banded sheepshead fish, and spotted leopard sharks swam among the huge swaths of giant kelp. A real highlight of the day was when a diver came into the tank and fed the fish. Impressively enough, he had a microphone in his breathing equipment that allowed him to answer schoolchildren’s questions while underwater.

David’s favorite critter of the day was the Mola Mola, the Ocean Sunfish. According to Wikipedia, the Ocean Sunfish “is the largest bony fish in the world. It is a unique pelagic fish, and specimens of ocean sunfish have been observed up to 3.3 m (11 ft) in length and weighing up to 2,300 kg (5,100 lb).”  David described it as looking unreal, like a “muppet fish.” If you like learning about critters, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is definitely worth a visit.

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