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Monterey Bay Aquarium November 19, 2018

Posted by flashbuzzer in History, Science.
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I recently visited the Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey.

Here are four nuggets that I gleaned from my time at the aquarium.

1. The fishing industry in Monterey benefited from innovations such as the purse seiner and the arrival of Sicilian immigrant fishermen. Record numbers of sardines, which prefer warm water, were caught and processed, feeding American troops during World War I and II. Yet the fishing industry in Monterey eventually collapsed due to factors such as rampant over-fishing and a decline in ocean temperatures. It experienced a partial revival when anchovies, which prefer cold water, migrated to the Monterey Bay.

2. Otters consume about a quarter of their body weight on a daily basis. They spend about half the day resting on their backs with their paws in the air (as their paws are relatively poorly insulated). They are assiduous in grooming their fur, which serves as an insulator (note that they lack blubber). While they do not consume fish, they do consume clams, mussels, octopi, sea urchins, and squid – often diving into kelp forests in search of them.

3. Great white sharks can reach up to 20 feet long and can weigh over 4000 pounds. Different great whites can be identified by their dorsal fins. Many great whites congregate near the Farallon Islands for several months before migrating to Hawaii. They have also been observed in the Sea of Cortez.

4. Marine lifeforms have evolved in myriad ways to improve their odds of survival, including:

  • sand dollars, which anchor themselves to the seafloor – with half of their bodies remaining above the sand – to resist being swept away by ocean currents; young sand dollars will also swallow heavy grains of sand to increase their weight
  • scorpionfish, which can blend in with rocks on the seafloor due to their distinct coloration
  • octopi, which can alter the coloration – and even the texture – of their skin by forming muscular “bumps” and “ridges.”

I especially enjoyed two humorous (and engaging) 15-minute presentations by the museum staff regarding great white sharks and Luna the sea otter.

I should note that admission to the aquarium is expensive. Also, one should arrive early for popular shows (e.g. feeding otters) to have an unobstructed view of the proceedings.

Overall I enjoyed my time at the aquarium, and I would recommend it to those who happen to visit Monterey.

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