Posts Tagged 'fish'

London Aquarium

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Alongside my trip to London Zoo at the start of summer, I also took a day at the London Aquarium on the South Bank. The last time I had been was not too long after it opened, probably around 1996 and I remember being fairly unimpressed. There were three giant tanks with the same inevitable fauna in them and not that much else. For various reasons I’d simply never been back and this trip was largely to see what had changed in the intervening years, not least given a recent revamp that had apparently added a fair bit in terms of additional enclosures.

Turning up, my the first impressions were worrying – originally an independent creation, it is now owned by the SeaLife Centre chain. I’m not a big fan of these, not because they do a poor job keeping and exhibiting animals, but having visited a number of them I found them to be almost carbon copies of each other. It probably works as a business model, but I used to be excited at the prospect of seeing any new collection in the UK, but these were so similar when I visited at the back end of the 1990s that it virtually was ‘one you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all’ and I rapidly lost interest and had not been to one since.

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Happily, the aquarium confounded both my fears and my memories. The former perhaps offset by the existing set-up that was used to good effect, the latter because things had changed a fair bit compared at least to how I (possibly incorrectly) remembered them. This is very much a modern aquarium with a nice balance between classic things like big sharks in big tanks and tropic reef fish, local fauna (there’s an excellent section on fish from the Thames), popular exhibits like penguins and piranha, and some oddities like spider crabs and morays.

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The major new addition since my first visit is a rainforest section that has a mixture of the inevitable (tetras, terrapins) and the less usual (a Cuban croc, the first I have ever seen), though all of it well laid out and with some excellent set-ups. The place as a whole has lots of viewing spaces and some very large windows into the bigger aquaria, and actually despite being in the very heart of London, it’s not a cramped space, though with hordes of visitors and it not being the size of even a small city zoo, it was a bit of a squeeze at peak times or for the more popular spots.

My only real complaint was that there was almost no where to sit anywhere at all – in addition to simply wanting to kick back and watch the animals (especially in the big tanks where it takes time for some of the animals to come around), I’m sure there are plenty of people who are aging, infirm or with kids who just want to take a break for 5 minutes and that’s all but impossible. It’s probably a combination of the space (limiting areas for seating) and a desire to keep crowds moving, but I’m sure with a bit of thought they could generate two or three spaces for a bench or even a couple of chairs and they’d be most welcome to plenty of visitors without disrupting the flow.

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Overall this is hardly on the scale of some of the larger aquaria, but this is certainly one of the best in the UK and well worth a visit. If I had only one day, I’d still take London Zoo as my sole trip and by a wide margin, but this is not something to be overlooked and, compared to the aquaria in Europe that I have been to, is very much at the top end and will satisfy most enthusiasts.

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The Horniman Museum aquarium

I spent yesterday catching up with my old friend and colleague Paolo Viscardi (known to fans of mystery biological objects as Zygoma). He’s a curator at the Horniman Museum, a small site in southeast London and one of those old style museums split between three major collections –  archaeological artefacts, musical instruments and natural history. While the latter part is well worth talking about and I have a number of posts lined up on various parts (including some very retro dinosaurs) there is also a small, but well stocked, aquarium attached. Some important breeding programs go on behind the scenes including work on various corals, seahorses and recently some cuttlefish too. It’s been a while since I’ve managed to cram a decent number of living species into these pages, so here, have some fish (and a lobster).

Oh, and a frog.


Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit writing about pterosaurs being killed…

Surely this can’t be serious? Yeah you wait years for a paper about pterosaurs being munched on by other vertebrates and then two come along at once. A paper? What is it?

In this case it’s an online publication, which is nice (PLOS again so freely available, reference and link below). This time it’s from (very) occasional contributors Helmut Tischlinger and Dino Frey. It seems the large Solnhofen fish Aspidorhynchus may have had a thing for pterosaurs.

While other specimens are apparently known of a similar interaction, a new specimen has come to light showing individuals of each species being intimately linked. Nope, it’s not that Rhamphorhynchus had a drinking problem so much as it got grabbed and dragged under by the fish. Too big to eat and with its wing membranes stuck in the teeth of the fish, the two were locked together. Drifting into the anoxic zone of Solnhofen lagoons (little use for loading or unloading there) would have killed them both, still locked together (and is also how you get things like this).

Interestingly, while Aspidorhynchus had tried to have ‘chicken’ for dinner, the flying pterosaur had had fish (incidentally I had lasagna). There’s a fish in the throat of the pterosaur, suggesting it had only just caught one at the surface of the water when it was snagged by the bigger fish below.

Right, I’ve got to go take a call on my white phone to do an interview about Microraptor colours, and it’s not a big pretty white one with a red stripe down the side.

Frey E, Tischlinger H (2012) The Late Jurassic Pterosaur Rhamphorhynchus, a Frequent Victim of the Ganoid Fish Aspidorhynchus? PLoS ONE 7(3): e31945. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0031945

Images for this post kindly provided by Helmut Tischlinger.

Osaka Aquarium again

I’ve written before (and posted lots of photos) about Kaiyukan, the aquarium in Osaka, but on my last trip to Japan I took the opportunity to go again. In fact, I took an extra day simply to go, so delighted had i been the first time. Of course not that much had changed in the intervening years (they rarely do in such places and especially when the place is dominated by a few major tanks). Even so, there were new delights and new species to see which was a pleasant surprise. Here are some new additions and some old favourites.

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Tokyo Aquarium

The Musings is clearly long overdue a zoo review and this summer brought me to two new places to explore – the Osaka Zoo and the Toyko Aquarium. I’m not sure if I’ll ever get round to covering the former as while it was, on the whole, perfectly satisfactory, it had little that was truly novel or exciting except a giant but underused free flight aviary and then a superbly designed Hagenbeck-type African savannah exhibit. The aquarium in Toyko however, had numerous exciting and interesting exhibits and I enjopyed my visit there immensely, so that’s what you’ll be getting today.

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The Jurassic Coast

Of course holding SVPCA in Lyme Regis was rather appropriate given the profound history of fossil vertebrate finds from the area and it’s place on the ‘Jurassic Coast’ which is a World Heritage Site. While I have been here before fossil hunting, it was my first tip as a professional palaeontologist and with a much greater appreciation of the place in terms of both the history and science of the region.

Despite the name there are Triassic and Cretaceous beds along the same strip of coast (if you follow it far enough to the West and East respectively). The former at least is relatively nearby as exemplified by the partial rhynchosaur skull (in orange) on display in the Lyme Regis Museum.

The main fossil sites at Lyme Regis lie on the beach just to the east of the town. There are marls interlinked with mudstones and the former can give rise to wave-cut platforms that gradually emerge and disappear as the tides rise and fall, while regular cliff falls ensure new specimens like this are constantly appearing.

Though of course it’s the ammonites that everyone comes for as they are so numerous and often in superb condition. In just a few minutes its possible to find a handful, though getting the bigger ones back or even out of the rocks can be quite a challenge.

It was great to see this place again and go collecting and of course visiting the local fossil shops with their huge variety of local and not-so-local specimens for sale (and sadly in one case a bird from Liaoning). I cam back with more material and casts than I expected and a new appreciation for this place given how my work in Asia lends me to think of vertebrate localities.

The fish of Feinsten

I rarely delve outside of archosaurs on here for obvious reason but this simply had to be shared. When I was introduced to some of this collection in the back rooms of the Jura Museum in Eichstaett I was literally rendered speechless. (And really actually literally. Those who know me will recognise this as an achievement). I was then told that what I was looking at was the *less* good stuff. The best material was on display in the galleries. They weren’t kidding. Feinsten is a new site in the Solnhofen limestones and the fish it is yielding (sadly nothing but fish so far, and a lone small turtle) are truly incredible. Stomach contents, skin patterns, gut casts and a preservational fidelity greater than anything I have ever seen before. Enjoy a small sampling:

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Beijing Aquarium

Beijing is actually home to three public aquariums, but the one I’m covering here is actually inside the Beijing Zoo, though it can be visited separately hence the separate review. It’s also big enough in its own right to warrant a separate review since it can easily occupy three or four hours of your time. It’s rather new having been open only since 2003 I believe.
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Kaiyukan Osaka Aquarium II


Well, I want to show off more of this amazing place, so you get a second dose of aquarium photos. The first lot are here for those who missed out:

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Kaiyukan Osaka Aquarium

crabIn a break from tradition (well, archosaurs), here are a bunch of photos from the amazing Kaiyukun Aquarium in Osaka. I have long wanted to visit this place and finally got my chance with my recent research trip to Japan. I have long been a keen amateur aquarist keeping all kinds of fish and inverts (and the odd amphibian) and actually did some work on fish locomotion as part of my Batchelor’s degree, so this was always going to be special. I have been to a large number of zoos and aquaria over the years, but almost all of them in Europe meaning that often the diversity and size of exhibits was limited. In a few hours here I probably saw well over a hundred species I had not seen before, and many of them are not on display anywhere else in the world. Overall the design was clever and original, the tanks were small in number but huge in size, well laid out, well lit, brilliantly set-up (decor, structure, plants, etc.) and well signed. I’ll let the photos do the speaking for me, but suffice to say it was an incredibly memorable day. If you don’t already know, it also contains the single largest tank in the world, all 11 000 tons of it and houses whale sharks, manta rays and many others. Enjoy:

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