Newly expanded exhibit offers an intimate look at these fascinating, fragile fishes

Sandy, UT (December 9, 2009) --- Seahorses have been celebrated in art, literature and mythology for centuries, so you'd think we know a lot about them. In "Seahorse Symphony," the Living Planet Aquarium's newly expanded exhibition, you'll discover that nothing could be further from the truth. Beginning December 19, 3 species of seahorses and 4 species of pipefish will beckon visitors into the elusive world of these charismatic creatures. Seahorse Symphony highlights the varied habitats in which seahorses and their relatives live, and shares the unique ways in which these fascinating creatures procreate. "Seahorses blend in with their environments so well that even when you know where to look they can be hard to find," said Curator of Animals Andy Allison.  "Seahorses are found in tropical and temperate coastal waters around the world, and live among seagrasses, kelp forests, mangroves, coral reefs and estuaries. The exhibit will feature a large, interactive world map which will indicate specific regions of the world where the different species can be found."

Seahorse Symphony will introduce visitors to the seahorse family: fishes that have fused jaws and bony plates in place of the scales normally associated with fish. Although seahorses and their kin come in many shapes and sizes, all are masters of disguise. Their ability to camouflage and blend with their environment helps them avoid detection by predators.  At first glance, it's easy to see why seahorses are a source of fascination. With a head like a horse, a snout like an aardvark, a belly pouch like a kangaroo, a prehensile tail like a monkey and the ability to change colors like a chameleon, seahorses are anything but ordinary.

Sadly, the mystique that draws people to seahorses is also the reason they're in jeopardy in the wild. "Their armored skins work well against most aquatic predators, but human divers have no trouble scooping them up by hand," Allison said.  Habitat degradation and over-fishing are the two major causes of seahorse population decline. Seahorses are generally found in shoreline areas where human populations are sometimes the greatest. Because of this population density, human disturbance is often extensive, making their habitats among the most threatened in the world. Dredging, pollution, shoreline alteration and destructive fishing methods such as trawling and dynamite fishing each contribute to habitat degradation. In addition, because of the desire to use seahorses for pre-packaged medicines and in the home aquarium and curio trades, the demand for seahorses exceeds supply.

Perhaps what most distinguishes seahorses from the rest of the animal kingdom is their unique life history - the males become pregnant and give birth. The exhibit will feature an interactive component which will highlight different parenting strategies used by seahorses and their relatives. While male sea dragons and pipefish carry their young on a specialized brood patch on the abdomen or the tail, only seahorses have a fully enclosed brood pouch.  Most species of seahorses mate for life. After dawn each day, the female swims to the male, and they both change color and perform a special dance, which lasts for about 10 minutes. They separate for the rest of the day, and repeat their dance the next morning. Only the male becomes pregnant; the female supplies the eggs, but the male carries the embryos. Depending upon the species of seahorse, the female will lay 25 to 1,000 eggs in the pouch on her mate's belly. Seahorse pregnancy lasts 10 days to six weeks, depending on the species and water temperature. Small seahorses have one to two babies per pregnancy, whereas the largest species can have about 1,000. All species of baby seahorses are fully independent after birth. Once the male gives birth, he usually becomes pregnant again right away.

Aquarium members will be allowed into the facility 1 hour early at 10am Thursday, December 17 for an exclusive "Members Only Sneak Peek" of the new exhibit.  The ribbon cutting ceremony will begin at 10:30am with Brent Andersen, aquarium Founder/CEO, Mayor Bob Dolan and representatives from the Sandy City Chamber of Commerce.  Light refreshments will be served.   

Seahorse Symphony is included with regular aquarium admission of $8 adult; $7 senior (65+), military and student (full-time college, with I.D.); and $6 children 3-17. Children under 3 are admitted free of charge. The aquarium is located on 725 E 10600 S in Sandy. It is open Sunday-Thursday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11am-7pm (closed Christmas Day). More information about The Living Planet Aquarium is available online at; or by calling (801) 355-FISH (3474). Advance tickets can be purchased online.

The Living Planet Aquarium is dedicated to celebrating life on Earth by fostering a greater awareness and knowledge of Earth's diverse ecosystems and creating a deeper understanding of our place in the global system of life.