It has been a few years since we’ve been to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, but we’ve been there so many times I feel as if we know all the exhibits by heart. This weekend we visited the aquarium for the first time since 2008, and thanks to one of their newer exhibits, The Secret Lives of Seahorses, it felt like we were rediscovering the place all over again. The Secret Lives of Seahorses opened in 2009, and judging by the crowd, it’s quite popular — and with good reason.
The exhibit features over 15 species of seahorses and their kin—one of the nation’s largest collections — including the Pacific Seahorse, Dragon Pipefish, Potbelly Seahorse, and my favorite, the Leafy Sea Dragon. Seahorses are really quite fascinating; it’s all too easy to stand in front of each display, watching these creatures drift gracefully through the water, wondering How in the world do they move about and How in the world did a sea creature end up with the same kind of head as a land mammal?
Like most exhibits at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, this one is not just a collection of tanks and animals. The aquarium really makes an effort to educate visitors through hands-on exhibits (including a giant model seahorse that little ones can pose for photos with), interactive features (my boys loved the computer game that allowed them to design a seahorse’s camoflage so it could hide from predators) and videos. The most fascinating video was about childbirth, where we got to watch a video of a male seahorse giving birth (yes, it’s the males who get pregnant – they’re the only males in the animal kingdom who get what we moms go through!), heaving and spitting out baby seahorses from his belly. My husband was not with us, but you can bet I’ll be dragging him back to this exhibit to show him that there are, in fact, males out there who are willing to share child-rearing duties.
There is a lot to see and do at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, but The Secret Lives of Seahorses is a definite must-see for everyone in the family. The exhibit is scheduled to run through August 2012, but we enjoyed it so much, and learned so much, I wish they would make it a permanent exhibit so other families can enjoy it as we did.