Aquarium of the Pacific; Dazzling + Dangerous

After the thrill of finals has concluded, if your bloodstream has surged with the impulse to hike, climb or swim, keep in mind that Mother Nature can be malicious as well as magnificent.
The Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific, home to over 12,500 native aquatic creatures of the Pacific Ocean, has recently opened ‘Dazzling + Dangerous: Venomous Creatures,’ an exhibit that focuses on the not-so-friendly critters that lurk in and around the waters of the Pacific Ocean.
Through March 31, 2007, visitors can journey through the interactive display of poisonous and venomous creatures.
One might wonder about the difference between the words ‘poisonous’ and ‘venomous,’ which are sometimes used interchangeably.
In order to be qualified as ‘venomous,’ a creature must be able to inject venom into its prey, whereas to be deemed ‘poisonous,’ its poison must be effective only when the creature is consumed or touched. In both cases, interaction with these animals can lead to extreme illness or even death.
However, with the relative safety provided by glass display tanks, visitors can focus on the amazing nature of these deadly animals without worrying about their safety.
On the lower level of the Aquarium of the Pacific, visitors are free to explore on their own, watch a film or further enrich their knowledge by consulting a tour guide.
Despite the bad reputation of these creatures (which only use their toxins for self-defense), they can also have major benefits for humans. For example, the venom of the Gila monster of Southern California was synthesized into a drug used to treat type 2 diabetes.
In addition to learning about the toxic treasures that the exhibit’s creatures offer, visitors are able to further understand the local environment of Southern Californian waters.
In an open tank, with the supervision of an experienced aquarium caretaker, visitors can experience the movement of paper plate-sized stingrays by touching them as they glide along the bottom.
In Long Beach and on other Southern California beaches, stingrays have become a growing problem due to human encroachment.
Nuclear power plants close to the shore make the waters warm and inviting for stingrays.
What’s wrong with graceful stingrays? The unclipped venomous barbs along their spine. That’s what some eager beach-goers will discover this summer.
An unwanted stab from a stingray can be avoided by shuffling one’s feet along the bottom of the sand, a maneuver which has been nicknamed the ‘stingray shuffle.’
The exhibit continues through newts, sea jellies and deadly insects. The last display before exiting this showcase is similar to your dad’s garage. But instead of tools, you’ll find black widows and tarantulas on display in buckets and sheds with transparent covers. These venomous creatures aren’t just found in the wild, but in everyday places like your home.
The exhibit extends into the Tropical Pacific gallery on the second floor, where you can observe golden poison dart frogs, which can kill a man with only two to three grains of their poison. Survey the ping-pong ball-sized greater blue-ringed octopus of the Australian Barrier Reef as its blue rings pulse in response to perceived threats, or play a game with your friends and try to find all of the stone fish camouflaged among the coral.
If fish and insects that could leave you lying on your deathbed within minutes of contact don’t fit the bill, then check out all of the other exhibits that the Aquarium of the Pacific has to offer, ranging from the Shark Lagoon to the Tropical Reef Habitat.
Also be sure to make a quick stop and say hello to the aquarium’s newest member that arrived Memorial Day morning, an as-yet-unnamed two-foot-long baby seal, whose daily joys, including nursing and romping around the tank with his mother Kona, are definitely entertaining spectacles to behold.
‘Dazzling + Dangerous’ is an event that will leave you filled with wonder and make you think twice about that next adventure in the outdoors.