Showing posts tagged as "video"
Back to the Wild: Releasing an Ocean Sunfish
Visitors love seeing ocean sunfish (Mola mola) when we have them in the Open Sea exhibit. As with great white sharks, they’re majestic – and temporary – members of our living collection. They’re with us for a while, then destined for return to the wild.
So, what happens when they leave? Where do they go?
Finally, we’re starting to get some answers.
Since 2008, we’ve tagged and tracked 17 ocean sunfish – nine that were caught and released in the wild, and four others tagged after they’d been with us at the aquarium, either on exhibit or behind the scenes. We’ve also collaborated with colleagues in Japan to tag four of the 17 several Mola mola on their side of the Pacific Ocean: three in the wild and one released by a Japanese aquarium.
A dozen tags reporting
Twelve of the 17 tags have reported back, and we’re gaining new insights into the sometimes far-ranging travels of ocean sunfish. Consistently, the sunfish tagged in Monterey Bay headed south and sometimes far offshore after release. Many tags popped up off as far south as Baja California or San Diego.
The information is limited for now, since the ocean sunfish released from our exhibit have carried 28-day tracking tags and wild-tagged sunfish 180-day tags. But it’s encouraging in other ways.
“We’ve learned that animals we bring to the aquarium are surviving after release,” says Senior Aquarist Michael Howard, the project lead in our ocean sunfish program. “That’s huge, and gives us confidence as we continue to work with them in the future.”
So much to learn
It’s just one element of what we’re learning about the Mola mola – the largest bony fish in the ocean.
“Not every sunfish we collect adapts to conditions in the Open Sea exhibit,” Michael explains. “In those cases, we’ll hold the animals off site as part of other ongoing studies, including our work to document how rapidly they grow.”
We know they grow quickly. One sunfish we successfully released was collected in October 2011 when it was just under two feet long and weighed 25 pounds. When we released it in Monterey Bay a year later, it weighed 421 pounds and was almost five feet long!
The next tag?
Our Mola mola tagging efforts will continue, Michael says. In 2014, we hope to tag up to four more wild ocean sunfish in Monterey Bay, as well as others we release from the aquarium. That could include the sunfish we placed on exhibit in October.
We hope that additional data we collect will document “some baseline or normal behavior that we can compare with the behavior of animals that we release from our exhibit and from aquariums in Japan,” Michael says.
That way, these odd-looking and incredibly popular fish can continue to inspire people to care more – and do more – to protect their ocean homes. And they’ll keep teaching us when we release them back to the wild.
Our most recent penguin chick is now on exhibit! Watch her amazing journey.
Too much fun! Watch as a visitor gets “chased” by a puffin on exhibit.
Thanks to Bobbi Wood for the fantastic video!
Can’t get enough? Check out this video of the Endeavour’s flyover!
Great video from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. Meet the deep-sea mystery blob!
Do you sometimes feel inspired by our Open Sea exhibit? This person certainly was!
Need a heartwarming way to start your week? Watch as otter pup 501 gets a bottle in this video, and learn about the forthcoming feature film. In theatres May 11! See it in your area.
Did you know we cultivate many of our jellies right here at the Aquarium? A viewing window in our new exhibit, “The Jellies Experience,” lets you watch our scientists in action! Or you can take a peek inside a jellyfish laboratory in this video.
We only exhibit spotted comb jellies (Leucothea pulchra) when they’re present in the bay—and we have them now in the Drifters Gallery. We’re also the only aquarium to exhibit these fragile jellies!