This is definitely a first for any aquarium.” — Jennifer Dreyer, Monterey Bay Aquarium Special Exhibits Coordinator
Monterey, CA, USA (April 12, 2014) — Octopuses, squid and cuttlefishes have gripped the human imagination for thousands of years. From the kraken to Cthluhu (ku-thoo-loo), the myths surrounding them live in our collective memory. Today, the Monterey Bay Aquarium opened the largest, most diverse living exhibit ever created to showcase these amazing animals. “Tentacles: The Astounding Lives of Octopuses, Squid and Cuttlefishes” is the most dynamic special exhibition ever from the aquarium that pioneered award-winning exhibits of jellies and deep-sea animals.
Over the life of the exhibit, visitors to Tentacles might see any of the two dozen species that will rotate through a dozen living exhibits, from giant Pacific octopus to Hawaiian bobtail squid, the Wunderpus and others – including one of the world’s smallest squid and one of the world’s largest cuttlefishes. From time to time there may also be displays of never-before-exhibited deep sea squid and octopuses collected in collaboration with the aquarium’s sister organization, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute.
Tentacles includes multimedia interactive exhibits that dramatize the features that set these animals apart, and art pieces highlighting 4,000 years of human fascination: replicas of Minoan pottery and tiles from Pompeii and Herculaneum; Victorian-era scientific and literary illustrations; modern-day tentacle tattoos; and contemporary mechanical sculptures commissioned exclusively for the exhibition.
As always, the focus is on the living animals. As visitors enter the galleries, they’ll encounter a 12-foot-long window into a school of nearly foot-long bigfin reef squid. Turning a corner, they’ll enter a grotto housing two giant Pacific octopuses. Elsewhere, they’ll find smaller exhibits that can house seldom-seen species like flamboyant cuttlefish, chambered nautilus, Wunderpus and two-spot octopus.
Living exhibits may feature one of the world’s largest cuttlefishes (the broadclub cuttlefish, more than a foot long) and the tiny northern pygmy squid, an inch or less in length. There will be an egg lab that showcases the aquarium’s groundbreaking work in rearing these incredible animals – including custom-built “bubblers” crafted out of empty soda bottles. The galleries include an exhibit, with chilled seawater, set aside to house living deep sea squid and octopus species if collection efforts prove successful.
“These are all short-lived animals. Many are species that have never been exhibited for very long by any of our colleagues, or raised through their entire lifecycle,” said Jennifer Dreyer, special exhibits coordinator for the animal care team.
Cephalopods – octopuses and their kin – are found from the poles to the tropics, in tide pools and the deep sea. They can be colorful or transparent, and range in size from less than an inch to more than 50 feet long.
Exhibits in Tentacles include video clips that reveal these animals’ amazing color- and shape-changing abilities and other fascinating but rarely seen behaviors.
One interactive exhibit lets people transform themselves in ways that mimic the color-shifting skills that help squid, octopuses and cuttlefishes ambush their prey, hide from predators, or communicate with potential mates. Visitors can share their “cephalopod selfies” by email or through social media channels.
Other interactives give visitors control of a model chambered nautilus as it moves up and down a reef in search of food, and let them provide the jet propulsion to send a replica squid racing through the water.
Three mechanical sculptures commissioned by the aquarium from contemporary Bay Area artist Nemo Gould tell important conservation stories about the impacts that pollution, overfishing and habitat destruction have on these remarkable creatures.
“These animals capture our imagination,” said Jaci Tomulonis, lead exhibit developer on the team that created Tentacles. “This is a great opportunity for people to meet incredible animals and explore ways to protect them for their future.”
“Tentacles: The Astounding Lives of Octopuses, Squid and Cuttlefishes” is included with aquarium admission.
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