Showing posts tagged as "video"

And that’s how they roll! Some cephalopods lumber along the seafloor, while others use jet propulsion. These cool creatures are part of our Tentacles exhibit.

Share YOUR love of cephalopods at #MBATentacles and you could win!

Did cephalopods have the original invisibility cloak? Octopuses, squid and cuttlefishes create an amazing array of colors, patterns, textures and shapes for camouflage and communication.

Learn more about our Tentacles exhibit

The Coolest Animals You’ve Never Seen: How a “Dream Team” of Scientists from the Aquarium and MBARI is Displaying Deep-Sea Cephalopods

From the vampire squid to the flapjack octopus, deep-sea cephalopods come in an amazing variety of shapes and sizes. Yet few humans have seen them alive.

Until now.

In the last month, we’ve displayed them as part of our “Tentacles” exhibit—thanks to a  collaboration with our partner institution, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI). “MBARI has some of the best deep-sea biologists in the world,” says Aquarist Bret Grasse. “And they’ve been working with these animals for years. They’re great at finding and collecting deep-sea animals, and we’re good at keeping them alive and sharing them with the public.”

A mission like no other

The first challenge is to find the animals. Enter Stephanie Bush, postdoctoral fellow and expert on deep-sea cephalopods. She combed through MBARI’s database of ROV (remotely operated vehicle) dives, looking for locations in Monterey Canyon where deep-sea octopuses and squid were likely to be found.

“Many of these creatures are not rare in the deep sea,” she says. “They’re just rarely collected.”

The next challenge was keeping the animals alive after they reached the surface. The deep sea is almost pitch black, with crushing pressure, near-freezing water, little oxygen, and sparse food.

“We do the best we can to replicate an animal’s natural environment,” says Bret. “In this case, we used data on oxygen concentrations, water temperature, and salinity collected by MBARI’s ROVs to help us figure out what conditions the animals need.”

When it came to deciding what to feed the animals, the team looked at studies of the gut contents of dissected animals. In the case of the vampire squid, MBARI researchers recently discovered that they use a sticky filament to collect “marine snow.” To replicate this, our aquarists filled a blender with chilled seawater, fish eggs, krill, and bits of moon jelly, creating a slurry that they offered to the vampire squid in squirts from a turkey baster.

Showing an animal that’s never been shown before

But keeping the animals alive was only half the battle—our aquarists also had to figure out how to display them.  Inevitably, the animals are exposed to light (even though the exhibit is in a dimmed room) and occasional camera flashes (even though there are signs prohibiting this), as well as noise and vibrations from people.

In some cases, this means that deep-sea cephalopods only remain on exhibit for a few days at a time, before being returned to a nice dark, quiet tank in a back room. As Bret put it, “We’re always balancing the public’s desire to see these animals with what we think is best for the animals.”

The collaboration has allowed MBARI researchers to make new discoveries.

“When you have an animal in a tank, you can see little details in the shapes and behavior that you might not notice in video,” Stephanie says. “For example, of the fourteen flapjack octopuses we collected, every single one was a mature female. We have no idea why this is, or where the males are.”

Stephanie is especially excited because one of these female octopuses laid eggs behind the scenes.

“Before this, no one even knew what the eggs of this octopus looked like,” she said. “Now we know that they lay tiny little eggs on rocks, and then cover them with sand.” Stephanie is hoping that the eggs hatch, but no one knows how long this might take.

Overall, it’s been an amazing collaboration—with an important benefit.

“I think it’s great that we’re inspiring a ton of people to care about the deep sea,” says Bret. “It’s an area that we rarely see, but which is the largest habitat on Earth.”

Learn more about MBARI

Learn more about our Tentacles exhibit

How fast is a cephalopod? Some lumber along the seafloor, while others take off in a whoosh, using “jet propulsion.”

Learn more about our Tentacles exhibit

What was our most popular YouTube video of 2013? You just loved this sea otter Easter egg hunt. Apparently so did the otters!

Watch our otters live

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.

Learn more about our ocean sunfish research.

Want to help Mola mola scientists? Report your wild sunfish sightings here.

Our most recent penguin chick is now on exhibit! Watch her amazing journey. 

View her on our live web cam.

Too much fun! Watch as a visitor gets “chased” by a puffin on exhibit.

Thanks to Bobbi Wood for the fantastic video!

Learn more about our exhibits

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!

About me

The Monterey Bay Aquarium, perched on the edge of a world-famous coastline, is your window to the wonders of the ocean. It’s located on historic Cannery Row in Monterey and is open daily except Christmas Day.

For more information about our animals and exhibits, and to view our live web cams, please visit

Hours of operation vary by season. Daily schedules and tickets are available on our website or by calling
(831) 648-4800.