Inside Monterey Bay Aquarium’s New Tentacles Exhibit

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When approaching the Monterey Bay Aquarium, you can’t help but notice something new is going on. The most amazing tentacles burst from the roof of the building to wave at you with a little help from the wind. It’s just a little preview of the excitement to come.

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The new Tentacles exhibit is on the lowest floor of the aquarium, and while probably unintentional, descending into the dark arena adds to the feeling of cascading into the depths of the ocean. It’s especially true when looking into the dark, almost haunted looking home of the rarely seen Flapjack octopus. If you think you’ve seen a Flapjack octopus before, you have, but the animated kind. This is Pearl, the Flapjack in Finding Nemo:

 

258px-PearlThis is the real Flapjack:

These guys are found in the deep, dark part of the ocean not seen by light or very many people until Tentacles. They were gathered off the Monterey coast using an undersea rover with the help of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. This is exciting for scientists, too, as the Monterey Bay Aquarium is not only learning about the lifecycle of the Flapjacks, they are learning how to breed them. It’s hypnotic watching them swim around, then gently parachute down. The aquarium needed to add a light to make them visible to the public, but no one knew how they’d react to any light source. Thus far, they don’t seem bothered by the dull red light in their tank, and scientists wonder if the Flapjacks can see the red light at all.

My only complaint is that they don’t tell Flapjack plush animals. I would have been first in line to buy one!

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Light is an issue for all of the tentacles inhabitants as many are nocturnal, which means they’re most active times unfortunately are not when the aquarium is open. To reduce stress, the tentacles exhibit won’t be open during special night time events at the aquarium, like sleepovers and private evening parties.

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The Chambered Nautilus zip around surprisingly fast using their own type of jet propulsion, and watching them is a glimpse back into prehistoric times as they’ve gone largely unchanged for millions of years and are considered living fossils. While it doesn’t look like it, they have tentacles, too.

Don’t miss the Vampire Squid, Flamboyant Cuttlefish, Big Fin Reef Squid, and more. It’s like no other exhibit you’ve seen before and it’s fun for all ages. There are hands on activities for squirmy, inquisitive kids, including an interactive station to turn yourself into a camoflauged cuttlefish and take a Cephalopod Selfie, like this:

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Not to be overlooked is the artwork interspursed throughout the exhibit. I loved the metal artwork, particularly this octopus, who looks straight out of a Wes Anderson movie.

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Hours for the aquarium are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., but check the daily schedule for changes and for highlights, like feedings. We got to see Big Fin Reef Squid eat and it was pretty impressive how quickly they charge and snag their prey.  As mentioned, many inhabitants are nocturnal, making just before closing a great time to see them in action. Morning has activity, too, but on the day we visited, the Giant Pacific Red Octopus seemed pretty tuckered out. Don’t worry, though, there are plenty of video displays of the creatures in full action.

The exhibit is slatted to stay open through August 2016.

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