Showtime: Atlanta

Georgia Aquarium exhibits preserved sea creatures

 

Associated Press

The Georgia Aquarium is giving visitors the chance to peer inside the bodies of giant sea creatures.

The exhibit, Sea Monsters Revealed: Aquatic Bodies, includes the preserved bodies of shark and other animals with their flesh stripped away to expose muscles, bones and organs underneath.

The exhibit, which opened in September at the Atlanta aquarium, is similar to the popular Bodies and Body Worlds exhibits of dissected human bodies that have toured the world.

The Sea Monsters Revealed show includes 18 big sea creatures — a 6-foot-wide devil ray, a 15-foot-long mako shark and an 18-foot-long, 3,000-pound whale shark — along with more than 150 individual organs and smaller animals.

As visitors walk along one side of the giant whale shark, the characteristic gray skin with white dots can be seen. Walking up the other side, that skin has been taken away to show the muscle structure underneath. A cavity opened underneath the shark shows comb-like structures along its gills that allow the shark to filter the water for food.

Another remarkable part of the exhibit is a silky shark with the skin peeled away on one side to reveal several embryos inside her abdomen.

“These are creatures that historically, in the early days when they were first discovered, were considered monsters because early sailors who saw these animals really didn’t know what they were,” said aquarium spokesman Cary Rountree. “Over time, it’s been revealed that they’re actually some of the most marvelous animals in our ocean.”

Visitors to the Georgia Aquarium can see live examples of whale sharks and devil rays, and then see how their bodies work in the new exhibit, Rountree said.

The preserved specimens do not include animals from the Georgia Aquarium. All of the animals in the Sea Monsters Revealed exhibit were recovered from fisheries and other sources in accordance with animal protection standards, the aquarium says.

The bodies are preserved using a polymer preservation technique known as plastination, which was also used on the human specimens in the Bodies exhibit. The process prevents decay by first replacing water and fatty materials in the cells with acetone and then with plastics, like silicone rubber, polyester or epoxy resin.

The preserved bodies are durable but must be handled carefully as parts could easily break off, Rountree said.

In addition to the preserved bodies, the exhibit includes a brief history of man’s interaction with these great sea creatures and a number of video and text displays.

•  Georgia Aquarium, 225 Baker St. NW; 404-581-4000; www.georgiaaquarium.org. Admission fee varies, but generally is $34.95 adults, $28.95 children 3-12, seniors 65+ $30.95 weekends and holiday periods, $5 less on weekdays. Sea Monsters Revealed: Aquatic Bodies is included in admission; runs at least through September 2014 but may be extended.

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