Explore the beauty of the world’s Coral Reefs in an exhibition at The Aquarium of the Pacific this summer

Coral Reefs: Nature’s Underwater Cities features more than one dozen exhibits / Pictured: day octopus in coral reef habitat. Credit: The Aquarium of the Pacific.

Take a voyage around the world to explore colorful coral reefs, the animals that call them home, and the threats they face along with solutions in the exhibition Coral Reefs: Nature’s Underwater Cities at the Aquarium of the Pacific. Programming and exhibits include the reimagined Tropical Pacific Gallery, animals such as a green sea turtle and glowing corals, and films about coral reefs, including one for the immersive Honda Pacific Visions Theater. The Aquarium invites you to take in the majesty of coral reefs as you learn about their importance and how to protect them through the relaunch of Coral Reefs: Nature’s Underwater Cities May 28, 2021 through April 2021.

While coral reefs cover less than one percent of the ocean floor, more than 25 percent of all marine fish species depend upon them. Coral reefs are the world’s most diverse marine ecosystems, filled with colorful fish and invertebrates that are found nowhere else on Earth. Tens of millions of people rely on them for their livelihoods, and billions of people could potentially depend upon them for the life-saving, medicinal secrets they may contain. But these important ecosystems are at risk. Coral Reefs examines this topic and what we can do to help.

To create the exhibition, the Aquarium redesigned its Tropical Pacific Gallery to focus on various aspects of coral reef habitats and showcase new animals. Some of the animals that are highlighted include numerous species of coral, sea turtles, sharks, rays, and diverse reef fishes such as pufferfish, filefish, parrotfish, and flashlight fish. The Aquarium has also added new animals to this exhibition for the relaunch, including sexy shrimp, the crown of thorns sea star, and pajama squid.

Learn how coral reefs form, how corals represent a mutually beneficial partnership between a colony-building ocean animal and algae, and discover the coral life cycle. Find out how so many animals live in close communities on coral reefs and how some species control the balance. Meet the seabird animal ambassador, Sula the red-footed booby, and find out about her species’ relationship to coral reefs. Sula is one of two known red-footed boobies living at a zoo or aquarium.

In addition to more than a dozen exhibits representing various coral reef habitats and species, guests can take a virtual dive with a new multimedia experience in the Aquarium’s Honda Pacific Visions Theater. The Aquarium will also offer a Great Hall film showcasing the beauty of reefs, an interactive exhibit where guests can digitally color a coral reef animal and add it to a virtual tank, a coral art installation, and informative displays where visitors can learn more about the importance of corals and reefs to animals and to people and what can be done to help protect them.

Coral reefs are highly valuable to communities around the world. Besides serving as beautiful places to explore while snorkeling on a tropical vacation, coral reefs and the marine life they support serve many important uses for humans. Reefs help protect coastal communities by reducing the impact of storm surges. Healthy coral reefs support a diversity of marine life and are an important source of food for many nations, including the United States. They may also have uses that are yet to be discovered. Some corals and sponges contain compounds that may hold the cures for human diseases, yet 95 percent of the ocean, where these animals may be abundant, remains unexplored.

The exhibition culminates with displays that show what people around the world are doing to help coral reefs and what each of us can do to join their efforts. The Aquarium of the Pacific has been involved in various programs to help coral reefs and promote coral conservation. Aquarium experts have traveled to places like Guam to assist with coral reef restoration as part of an ongoing effort with SECORE (Sexual Coral Reproduction) International, which the Aquarium joined in 2013. The Aquarium supported the CORALASSIST project in Palau in 2019 to help with efforts to sustain biodiversity and ecosystem services in the face of climate change. The Aquarium also acts as a rescue facility for confiscated corals for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and has a coral propagation area to grow and care for corals.

Credit: The Aquarium of the Pacific.

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