After five years of preparation, work and various challenges, the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s newest exhibit, Into the Deep, is open to the public. Into the Deep spotlights a collection of deep-sea creatures, “from football-sized giant isopods to transparent jellies that glow,” according to the aquarium’s website.
Into the Deep is the largest exhibit of deep sea life in North America, at approximately 10,000 square feet. Between research, development, prototyping planning, and more, the exhibit cost $15 million and was funded by a gift from The Grainger Family Fund, in honor of David and Juli Grainger.
An article published by the Monterey Bay Aquarium in March 2021 revealed one of the biggest challenges the staff encountered was getting to the deep sea to explore and collect animals for the exhibit. Partnering with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), they were able to use technology and remote-operated vehicles to explore deeper in the ocean than scuba divers can reach.
The deep sea is one of the least explored habitats on Earth but the aquarium and MBARI are continuing to explore the habitat with top-of-the-line ocean exploration technology, sharing their discoveries as they go.
Into the Deep spotlights creatures from the midwater – the area between the deep seafloor and sunlit water – and the seafloor. The aquarium’s website explains that the midwater is the largest habitat on Earth.
There are 21 new live exhibit habitats in Into the Deep, representing dozens of new species in the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
In the exhibit, visitors can get a glimpse of the sealife exclusive to the midwater. A few of the animals visitors can see from the midwater include the sea angel, snow globe jelly, and red paper lantern jelly.
The midwater gallery also features never-before-exhibited creatures, such as the bloody-belly comb jelly, which MBARI scientists first discovered. It also features a comb jelly that has yet to be scientifically named, currently nicknamed Red-x.
Characterized by steep underwater mountains and hydrothermal vents, the seafloor creates a unique environment for its species to thrive. There is everything from long-legged crabs to unique corals and octopuses.
Diving further into the exhibit, visitors can see otherworldly animals such as the basket star and feather star. Into the Deep is home to two types of crabs, the Japanese porcupine crab, and the Japanese spider crab.
While looking at the Japanese spider crabs, visitors can also learn about “whalefall” in the 12,500-gallon display, demonstrating how whale carcasses on the seafloor can become the foundation for a diverse community of animals.
The newest exhibit also spotlights tiny bone-eating worms, which were first discovered on whalefalls in Monterey Bay.
Before exiting the exhibit, visitors can stop by an isopod touch station. Visitors can gently touch the shells of the football-sized seafloor friends before leaving the exhibit.
There is plenty more to discover and learn from Into the Deep. To purchase tickets or a membership to the aquarium, head to their website https://www.montereybayaquarium.org/. California State University, Monterey Bay students can pick up a free ticket to the Monterey Bay Aquarium in the Otter Student Union.