Making a home in the Sea of Cortez

Anyone who's visited the Aquarium recently has likely noticed our colorful new Sea of Cortez exhibit on the first floor. If a visitor paused a moment, they may have seen this fascinating little fish doing a little excavating.

Blue spotted jawfish surveys the exhibit from his burrow in the Sea of Cortez exhibit

Bluespotted jawfish (Opistognathus rosenblatti) build their burrows by scooping sand with their large mouths and spitting it out the entrance of the nest. While they do venture out of their burrows to feed on invertebrates in the water column, they are quick to dart back inside when threatened. Check out this short video clip to see the jawfish in action.

The jawfish is just one of several interesting species living in the Sea of Cortez exhibit. This beauty — a Moorish idol (Zanclus cornutus) — is the only known member of its taxonomic family. The name is purportedly derived from the an ancient belief that they bring happiness to those who encounter them.

The Moorish idol is one of the handsome residents of the
Sea of Cortez exhibit on Level One.

And then there's the gold-rimmed tang. Learn more about its territorial spinning behavior in this previous post. Plus the Cortez rainbow wrasse, the keyhole angel, and the list goes on. There's also a whole other marine habitat in this exhibit, too — a deep Pacific coral environment. See a video of this display here.

The Sea of Cortez, also known as the Gulf of California, is a special corner of our marine world. As one of the most biologically diverse marine areas in the world, it was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005. (The Phoenix Island Protected Area was named a World Heritage Site this year! Learn more about this Pacific Ocean marine protected area that the Aquarium helped create on the PIPA Blog.) Come on down to the Aquarium to glimpse a slice of this vibrant ocean habitat right here in Boston!


Spinning behavior in the Sea of Cortez exhibit

Next time you visit the Aquarium, be sure to stop by the new Sea of Cortez exhibit on the first level. When you get there, you might see this fascinating behavior--spinning gold-rimmed tangs (Acanthurus nigricans). Here's what it looks like.

This can go on for much longer than the length of this video. This is a common territorial interaction for several species of surgeonfish. 

Be sure to look for other fascinating fish behaviors during your visit to the tropical gallery.


Exhibit Opening! Two New Windows into the Pacific

There are two new opportunities for visitors to experience Pacific seascapes with the renovation of an exhibit bay on the Aquarium's first level. One exhibit presents the Sea of Cortez coral environment.

The new Sea of Cortez exhibit

Aquarium explorers visited this environment during an expedition in 2008. Their updates from the field reveal how closely this exhibit replicates the actual habitat.

Photo from a shallow water dive during the 2008 Sea of Cortez expedition

Next to this bright tank, visitors can explore a Deep Pacific coral environment. The video below shows the contrast between these two fascinating vistas.


Residents of the Thinking Gallery

Visitors who've wandered through the Aquarium's Thinking Gallery likely saw these giant residents: goliath groupers. This video shows you just how big they are. See if you can spot some other "helpful" fish in the exhibit, too!

(There are groupers in the Giant Ocean Tank, too! Listen to grouper grunts on this GOT Divers Blog entry. You might also like to see neat video of what Mero, the GOT's Warsaw grouper, does during a gravel bath!)

Those small fish in the video are gobies and they have a mutualistic relationship with the groupers, meaning both the gobies and the groupers benefit. The gobies, sometimes called cleaner fish, benefit by getting an easy meal of parasites, mucus, and dead scales. The groupers benefit from constantly having their bodies checked and cleaned of parasites!

Unfortunately, groupers are currently listed as critically endangered after being severely over-fished. One of the reasons they were so easy to fish is that even though they can become a huge fish they actually don't travel around a whole lot. As they mature and become an adults, they tend to find a small territory (often the opening to a cave or often using a wreck), where they wait for food to come to them. Due to this small home range they became easy fishing targets, especially spear fishing targets. That's because if a diver found one, the chances were good that they could return with a spear gun the next day and find the same fish in the same spot. With new protection regulations, fisherman are not allowed to harvest these fish.

Learn how your seafood choices, at restaurants and at home, can affect fish in the sea by visiting our Celebrate Seafood Program. You'll find tips on choosing seafood that's good for you and good for the oceans. It's all part of a blue lifestyle!


Aquarium Goosefish Lays Egg Veil

Visitors to the Aquarium are being treated to a very special, and beautiful, temporary addition to the goosefish exhibit on the third floor. The female goosefish laid an egg veil this week! Take a look...

The egg veil moves very slowly with the currents in the tank.

The goose fish is in the lower left corner of the tank, to the left of the orange sea star.

Egg veils are usually about a foot wide and can reach 60 feet long, containing about a million eggs. "It feels almost like a sea jelly," says Bill Murphy, aquarist in the Northern Waters Gallery. "The veil is pretty strong."

Seen from above, you can almost make out the tiny eggs that comprise the sheet.

A tip of the veil

Murphy could tell that the goosefish was getting ready to lay the eggs because she was so much larger than usual.

Murphy says this particular fish has laid an egg veil around the same time of year for the past couple years. Another neat fact about goosefish: They have a modified dorsal fin that they dangle to attract prey, almost like their own fishing lure. Come visit this fascinating fish at the New England Aquarium! The egg veil will remain in the exhibit for the next couple days.

While you're here, don't miss the giant Pacific octopus just a couple tanks down from the goosefish in the Northern Waters Gallery. Murphy posted about the unusual and amazing talents of these intelligent animals in a guest post on the Aquarium's Divers Blog. Click through to see pictures of the octopus squeezing into a clear box!

As a certified dry suit diver, Murphy also recently taught teens in the Aquarium's SEA TURTLE program that not all scuba diving is warm water diving!