Tentacles - Monterey Bay Aquarium (MBARI) Exhibit


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Sep 4, 2006
Cape Coral, FL
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The intent is to have as many cephs as possible and the entire room will be only cephs. One of the highlights I am looking forward to is the Cyanea exhibit as I wonder why we don't see these in more public aquariums. One little tidbit we did pick up from the conference is that there is a plan to have a very tall aquarium with a sliding display panel (now you see it, now you don't). The hope is to be able to display a few of the deep sea animals that come in for research. MY :fingerscrossed: personal hope is that by 2017 they will have extended the success with vampyroteuthis and that is what will be in the tank when we come. Seeing one alive is on my bucket list :sagrin:
Coolest Jobs on the Central Coast: Aquarist

KSWB visits the Monterey Bay Aquarium, interviews @Bret Grasse MBA and videos some of the cephs that will be in the new exhibit.

What are the 5 Coolest Jobs on the Central Coast? For those who’d rather spend their time under the sea than up on land, it’s the job of a lifetime. Michelle Imperato takes a look at what it takes to be an aquarist at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
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Los Angeles Times teaser

Monterey Bay: These cuttlefish, octopus star in aquarium's new show with a slide show of some cephy goodness.

Deep-dwelling sea creatures, and the cultures that love them. That could be the tagline for a new show set to open next month at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, Calif. It combines live specimens of squid, octopus and other little-seen cephalopods with examples of ancient pottery and modern literature that reflect the cultural bond humans have had with these sea dwellers for centuries.

Giant Pacific octopus, Hawaiian bobtail squid, chambered nautilus, wunderpus and other species will be rotating through "Tentacles: The Astounding Lives of Octopuses, Squid and Cuttlefish." It opens April 12.
Aquarium's new "Tentacles" wraps itself around your imagination
April 6 2014

Click the above link to Monterey County Weekly's e-newsletter (or here) for a slideshow of some of the attractions.

Enter the wonderpus.

The shapeshifter

First comes art that evokes the grip octopi and their like have had on humans for centuries.

A clip of Monsters from the Deep reveals a giant suction-cupped tentacle reaching up and pulling down a stretch of the Golden Gate Bridge.

"We're not just creating this in 2014,"

Certainly not: The project has been in the works across years of husbandry

The first living thing visitors look at often looks back.

Not with the curiosity of an otter or the confusion of the sun fish, but the penetrating eye of an ancient wisdom.

Or the hungry eye of a predator that, as one veteran Aquarium staffer says, "would eat you if it could."

Then the reef squid glides away from the glass and the eye lock with graceful skirts fluttering.

The whole fluid works like

Talk about an interactive exhibit.

That theme soars above others, and not so much in the , but in the games.

The day octopus is the next most stunning interaction.

The other pieces are each riveting.
World’s Largest “Tentacles” Exhibit at Monterey Bay Aquarium Will Cultivate Its Own Cephalopods
KQED Science April 8, 2014, Danna Staaf (@Danna )

Flamboyant cuttlefish. Pygmy squid. Dumbo octopus. These cartoonish names belong to real animals, and you could see them live at the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s new exhibit, opening April 12.

Tentacles“ will be the world’s largest, most diverse display of cephalopods—the suction-cupped, parrot-beaked, skin-changing group that includes octopuses, squid and cuttlefish. But the aquarium can’t guarantee which exact creatures will end up on display. During a behind-the-scenes tour last month, aquarist Alicia Bitondo said, “We won’t know which animals are in which tanks until a couple of weeks before the exhibit opens.” She paused. “Or the day before.”

This anxious uncertainty is due to the short lifespans typical of cephalopods. The exhibit itself, which is scheduled to close on Labor Day 2016, will outlive nearly all of its inhabitants. Continuous display of any given species would require ongoing collection from the wild, and most species are native to distant seas—a severe challenge to both logistics and sustainability.

Fortunately, there’s an alternative: grow them at home.

Bringing Up the Babies

Bigfin reef squid entertain visitors. (Randy Wilder/Monterey Bay Aquarium)

The $3.5 million “Tentacles” is is the first exhibit since the Aquarium’s award-winning jelly displays to rely on constant laboratory culture of animals behind the scenes. Current eggs and hatchlings will be rotated through public display in the Egg Lab.

Some of these babies will eventually appear in grown-up exhibits, but others never will. For example, pygmy squid—fully grown at the size of your fingernail—oblige their keepers by laying eggs, but no one knows what to feed the minuscule hatchlings. And giant cuttlefish, each big enough to fill a carry-on suitcase, can at least be raised from hatching to 11 months—but not yet to full maturity.

For now, both pygmies and giants still require collection from their home ranges in the Indo-Pacific and Australia, respectively. But that could change over the next couple of years. Monterey aquarists seem to have a way of coaxing reproduction from the most reluctant critters—as in the case of the deep-sea dumbo octopus.

Over the years since their discovery, dumbo octopuses have occasionally released unfertilized eggs in their death throes, but at the Aquarium two dumbo moms have now laid their eggs properly. These precious spheres, which may or may not be fertilized, are being kept in super-chilled, low-oxygen water to mimic the deep-sea environment. That means they can’t show up in the Egg Lab, but adult dumbos might make an appearance in a special deep-sea tank. Over the life of “Tentacles,” this tank could also house vampire squid, glass squid, or cock-eyed squid, species that have never before been on public display.

Struggling on Their Home Surf

Growing animals in the lab is one way to protect wild populations from over-harvesting. But are any cephalopods truly at risk? None are currently listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List, the most comprehensive international database of conservation.

However, that’s largely because of missing information. Of the 73 cephalopods on the IUCN’s list, 59 are “data deficient,” which means we just don’t know enough to gauge how they’re doing. One species, the Australian giant cuttlefish, is listed as “near threatened”—that is, likely to be become endangered.

This somber prediction is largely driven by one particular population of giant cuttles, which has never recovered from overfishing in the 1990′s. It now faces habitat loss due to industrial waste and construction projects. “Tentacles” addresses these struggles, not through the species’ live display, but with an unusual aquarium that contains neither water nor animals. It’s a mechanical sculpture of cuttlefish in their altered environment, built by the artist Nemo Gould from found materials, including a boat motor, chandelier parts, shoe stretchers, egg slicers, and coffee pot lids. “I’ve been dying to use that boat motor for years,” he said.

This nautilus diorama by artist Nemo Gould represents the threat of overfishing. (Nemo Gould)

Gould was commissioned by the Aquarium to create “three sculptures representing three species and three fairly specific threats.” The second sculpture is supposed to represent the threat of pollution to octopuses, a mandate that had the artist scratching his head at first. “How do you make a sculpture of chemicals?” he asked. In fact, little is known about chemical threats to wild octopus populations, although toxins such as mercury and crude oil can certainly do damage in the lab.

The final sculpture addresses overfishing of nautilus, the only living cephalopod with an external shell. Originally a defense against predation, these shells have sadly become its primary cause, as humans collect them for decorative purposes.

Gould’s sculptures provide a beautiful counterpoint to such destruction in the name of aesthetics. He harvests rusty junk and broken parts from scrap yards, waiting for the right project to transform them. When he got the call from the Aquarium, he said, “My supplies were brimming with what I needed.”

Circling Back to the Suckers

An aquarist interacts with a giant Pacific octopus. (Randy Wilder/Monterey Bay Aquarium)

The Giant Pacific Octopus, GPO to its friends, has been one of the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s most iconic exhibits since the refurbished cannery opened as a tourist attraction in 1984. At the time, the GPO was actually part of a whole “Octopus and Kin” gallery, where it kept company with two other local species, the red octopus and two-spot octopus. Aquarists had hoped to exhibit native squid as well, but they had to settle for cuttlefish from far-off seas. Nautilus, also non-native, rounded out the display.

“Ultimately, the mix of local and exotic species didn’t fit with our Habitats Path exhibit plan,” said Ken Peterson, the Aquarium’s communications director. “Now cephs are back, bigger and better than ever!”

Explore: aquarium, cephalopods, cuttlefish, habitat loss, Monterey Bay, nautilus, octopus,overfishing, pollution, squid
More from @Danna in her What's Missing From The World's Largest Cephalopod Exhibit Squid A Day Blog on what won't be on display and why.

Guess who’s not being displayed in the Monterey Bay Aquarium's new "Tentacles" exhibit, opening April 12? Who is just too difficult for this award-winning institution to handle?

Flashytropicaloctopuses are all showing up for work. The world's smallest cephalopod is on the billing. Evenspecimens of the deepsea are likely to make an appearance.

So who's the diva too delicate to display? Local squids.

That's right. Two species that live in the Aquarium's backyard, market squid and Humboldt squid, are apparently anti-exhibitionists.


California's market squid (Doryteuthis opalescens) has been frustrating attempts to display it since the Monterey Bay Aquarium opened in 1984. The ultimate West Coast free spirit. (Joshua Sera/Flickr)

As a California squid biologist, I take a perverse sort of pride in that. Although, our geography's not really special, it's just that our two squid species happen to be pelagic: inhabiting the vast blue expanse of open ocean, rather than hunkering down in the sand or hanging around seaweeds.

It's a lot easier to fill a tank with sand or seaweeds than to recreate the open ocean environment in something that isn't, well, open. Still, the Aquarium has managed to display other pelagics, like tuna and jellies. The problem is that squids are both fast and active like tuna AND soft and delicate like jellies. They're likely to brush against a wall or filter, and that's likely to lead to injury, infection, and death.

So the only squids* that will show up in "Tentacles" are benthic, like the dear little pygmies who glue themselves onto seagrasses. It's at once frustrating and awesome to learn that some animals are just too wild to be displayed.


Bigfin reef squid tend to hang out near rocks and coral rather than in the big blue, a habit that will allow them to be featured in the Monterey Bay Aquarium's new Tentacles exhibit. (Randy Wilder/Monterey Bay Aquarium)

* When I'm talking about more than one species of squid, I call them squids. I picked up the habit from ichthyologists, who refer to multiple individuals of the same species as fish ("I saw ten tuna fish today") and multiple individuals of different species as fishes ("Tuna and sharks are both pelagic fishes").

But the full title of "Tentacles: The Astounding Lives of Octopuses, Squid, and Cuttlefishes" features a different choice. The Aquarium's communications director told me that this was discussed in great depth, but wasn't able to tell me the rationale behind the final decision.

As long as I'm quibbling semantics, I can't help noting that octopuses don't technically have tentacles. Squids and cuttlefishes have eight arms and two tentacles; octopuses have eight arms and zero tentacles. I guess "Arms" doesn't sound so exciting. Plus the exhibit includesnautiluses (even though they're snubbed in the title), which have 60-90 tentacles and zero arms. A truly inclusive title would have to be "Arms and Tentacles" . . . or, as my husband suggested, "Appendages." Now that's a crowd draw!

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