Dallas World Aquarium

Sep 8, 2006
Well, I went to the Dallas World Aquarium yesterday. Third visit in the past year.

I was very disappointed with the ceph exhibits this time. In the past they have been quite enjoyable. The first time I went the pharaoh cuttles were about 3 inches long, and they were numerous, at about a dozen or more. Last time I went, there were still around a dozen, and most of them were very active and interactive with the people in front of the display. I watched them hunt and socialize amongst themselves.
This time there was only one in the tank, upon the first passing. It was very ragged looking. Scarred and beaten up in appearance, and I'm pretty sure I noticed what is called "butt-burn" as the end of its mantle was exposed, opened up, and quite raw looking. Also I noted that it was floating, barely alive in appearance. Upon a second passing about an hour later, I could not find it anywhere in the tank. There was a hand placing coral pieces in the upper rocks of the display that the cuttle was following around... so I assume maybe they removed the cuttle. It was about 14 inches long best I could tell. I did notice that the tank was covered in cuttle eggs though. Hopefully in a few months when I go back they will have babies.

The GPO was inside her den, same as last time I went. Last time I noticed several hundred, if not thousand eggs strung from the ceiling of her den. This time I could only see the remains of a couple hundred eggs. She was rather lethargic, breathing slowly, and her color was almost a golden brown. I couldn't see her real well, but the eye I could see looked very dull. Considering most of her eggs appeared to have already hatched or deteriorated I doubt she will be around much longer.

I really hope next time I visit there is a new life to these exhibits. They are the reason I pay to get into this place.
Although I can fully understand your disappointment, I can imagine another view in which we applaud the aquarium staff for being willing to show all parts of the cephalopod life cycle, without hiding away the depressing parts behind the curtains. It's unfortunate that both ceph exhibits are in the senescence/egg phase right now, and maybe for ceph-public-relations it would be better to always have some young, active, and healthy animals for the display, but I've often been a bit dismayed at how a lot of zoos, aquariums, and documentary-makers (and, for that matter, meat-packers) seem to be very careful to edit out anything the public will find "icky," while real scientists (and amateur ceph-keepers) have to, by necessity, experience all aspects of animal life in a very pragmatic way. This isn't just an issue for animal husbandry, either-- in Red Cross CPR classes for the public they rarely mention the kinds of pragmatic-but-icky things that they talk about in the ones for professional rescuers... And I know the experiences of forensic pathologists, coroners, and criminalists is rather different from the cleaned-up version you seen on CSI...
Don't get me wrong, I'm glad they have kept (at least to my knowledge) the GPO throughout her cycle, and not dragged her out of the tank just because she won't be an eye-catching exhibit anymore. Most people who walk by don't even notice there is an octopus in the tank, which considering she is in a hole at the bottom of the tank is understandable. All you can see is a couple of curled arms, the side of her mantle and her syphon, occasionally inhaling and exhaling. One family with a little girl walked by, and the little girl pointed at her and said "What is THAT!?" and they asked her, "What? The starfish? The anemone?" And I said, "No, the Octopus." and they freaked out! They literally picked her up and walked away, like it was a monster. Then the husband broke out his high dollar camera and the flashes began, and I then noticed the tentacles curling... I had an uneasy feeling about it. I guess it's the tree-hugger in me. I wished I hadn't even pointed her out.

I had been there about 2 months ago, and the cuttlefish were thriving. They seemed like they were in their prime. There was no sign of illness or "old age" among any of them best I could tell. The main disappointment was that I had talked my cousin into going. He had mentioned on our way that he was really fascinated with the cephs and wanted to see them most of anything. It was unfortunate that his first glimpse at captive cephs was the end of their life-cycle. It was sad to see the cuttlefish worn out and in sad condition, and even more so to notice it wasn't in the exhibit when we returned. Now I'm left with thinking... we might have been the last people to see it in the exhibit before it was removed, dead.

I understand what you're saying though. I'm glad they are allowed to finish out their lives, regardless of whatever impression or review they might leave with the public. For the most part though, I don't feel like the majority can appreciate the animals for what they are in that stage of life. I personally was totally captivated, just watching the GPO breathe, but I understand what she was and how her life got to this point. It seems like most people think "This is all there is to that creature?"... just part of being a ceph-freak I suppose.

Oh Hefeweizen, take me away. I hadn't seen these creatures much, but it was kinda heartbreaking.
Having a background in both research and aquaria, I can tell you that it is not just as simple as euthanizing an animal because it does not look appealing. That aspect is taken into consideration, but many other factors remain. Many institutions that are AZA accredited, have to adhere to strict regulations in regards to animal welfare and if the creature's quality of life is deemed poor, the animal will possibly be euthanized. Octopus literally starve to death while brooding their eggs in the wild. Many people will call that inhumane and cause for euthanasia. Additionally, we have had GPOs that are senescent but instead of letting them just "live out their life", we were able to experiment with a new anesthetic which actually proved to work much more efficiently (and humanely) than the other methods in use.

If a cuttlefish has lost most of its vision and buoyancy control (2 critical characteristics for it to survive) would you not say that animal's quality of life is lacking; though it is difficult for me to say that animals actually experience suffering, in the same sense that humans define it.

Many aquariums have holding tanks behind the scenes where animals are housed that have superficial lesions, etc. Not all animals are killed merely because they are taken off exhibit. Decisions are difficult to make when it comes to whether or not euthanize animals, but they must be made in certain cases.

monty;101226 said:
applaud the aquarium staff for being willing to show all parts of the cephalopod life cycle, without hiding away the depressing parts behind the curtains.

While I agree, it is noble to show the public even the "ugliness" of nature, I would like to point out that there occasionally can be a win-win situation. Many aquariums on the west coast release their GPOs and other native cephs before senescence to breed in the wild. The aquarium doesn't have to show a degenerating animal, and the ceph can contribute the the future of the species. That being said, I am sure the Dallas World aquarium would have a hard time releasing a Sepia pharaonis. I know there are those who frequent this board that believe that any animal placed into captivity is evolutionarily dead, but there is some evidence that this isn't the case with local cephs kept in public aquaria (Anderson, R. C. and Little, E. A. H. (2006). Observations of a brooding Octopus rubescens (Cephalopods: Octopdidae). The Festivus 38, 10-12.)

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