coral 3    Discus

We are poised to have the same effect on the ocean as we did with mass extinctions on land, but are at a crucial turning point—if we act now. This is the central theme of the Aquarium of the Pacific’s Vanishing Animals exhibit, which opened last summer and will be closing this September 4. The public has the final opportunity to explore this exhibition, which is located in the Aquarium’s changing exhibits gallery on the first floor.

The gallery space highlights impacts of human activities on land resulting in terrestrial animal extinctions, tell stories of rebounds from near-extinction, then shows through live animal exhibits, multimedia and interactive displays, and interpretive panels how we have the opportunity in the near future to avert a similar path in the ocean. Animals on display include fishes, newts, salamanders native to local streams, and invasive species of crayfish and finfish in these ecosystems; American alligators; healthy corals contrasted with corals overgrown with algae; oysters, mussels, and white abalone, representing species commonly propagated in aquaculture farms; Atlantic cod; and cardinal tetras and discus fish. Visitors can also learn more about animal extinctions, humans’ relationship with our planet, and our future ocean through a five-minute daily show projected on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Science on a Sphere in the Aquarium’s Ocean Science Center.

“Actions we take now can help reduce the rate of extinctions occurring on land and in the ocean.  We know more about extinctions on land. We hope this exhibit inspires people to get involved at a time when we have the opportunity to shape the future of life in the ocean.” said Dr. Jerry Schubel, Aquarium of the Pacific president and CEO.  Upon entering the gallery, guests will learn in the first half about the stories of animals and habitats on land. In the second half, they will learn about the future of the ocean. In the terrestrial portion, visitors will encounter a habitat modeled after a freshwater stream. These ecosystems are among the most seriously threatened by pollution, land development, the introduction of non-native invasive species, and other activity. The animals displayed in this exhibit include local stream fishes, newts, and salamanders, and invasive species like crayfish. Next, an exhibit housing juvenile American alligators provides an example of an endangered species success story.

As visitors move into the aquatic side of the gallery, they will see an exhibit modeled after a coral reef. One side shows healthy corals, and the other is overgrown with algae, a problem attributed to harmful fishing practices that remove beneficial fish from reef ecosystems and runoff of nutrient-rich waters. Another exhibit showcases species that fish farmers propagate in the aquaculture industry, including white abalone, mussels, and oysters. Aquaculture is an example of a practice that when done responsibly could limit the impacts of overfishing and harmful fishing practices while providing a stable source of seafood for the world’s growing human population.

The gallery also features Atlantic cod, a species that has been overfished to the point of commercial extinction. Finally, an exhibit called Project Piaba tells the story of a well-managed freshwater fishery for fish like cardinal tetras and discus collected sustainably in South America for hobbyist aquariums. The visitor experience closes with a video that summarizes the major findings and conclusions of the article in Science that stimulated the development of the exhibition. Dr. Douglas McCauley, the paper’s lead author, came to the Aquarium in November 2015 to give a lecture and meet with Aquarium educators to develop the themes and stories in the exhibition. Dr. Elizabeth Hadly of Stanford University and Dr. Anthony Barnosky of the University of California, Berkeley, also contributed to the exhibit.

The nonprofit Aquarium of the Pacific is a community gathering place where diverse cultures and the arts are celebrated and where important challenges facing our planet are explored by scientists, policymakers, and stakeholders in search of sustainable solutions. The Aquarium is dedicated to conserving and building nature and nature’s services by building the interactions between and among peoples. Home to more than 11,000 animals, Aquarium exhibits include the Ocean Science Center, Molina Animal Care Center, and the new FROGS: Dazzling and DisappearingOur Water Future, and Archerfish exhibits. Beyond its animal exhibits, the Aquarium offers educational programs for people of all ages, from hands-on activities to lectures by leading scientists. The Aquarium has won a 2015 Travelers’ Choice Award for Aquariums, as awarded by TripAdvisor® travelers, and the 2017 TripAdvisor® Certificate of Excellence. The Aquarium offers memberships with unlimited FREE admission for 12 months, VIP Entrance, and other special benefits. For more information, call 562-590-3100 or visit


Credit: The Aquarium of the Pacific. Poto Credit: Aquarium of the Pacific.

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