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A Lecture Night at the Aquarium

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Animal Updates | Fish | Sharks | Education | Guest Speaker Series

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


The Aquarium has many amazing programs that go on beyond our normal operating hours. I haven’t had the opportunity to take advantage of them before, but recently my schedule opened up and one night, I was able to!

This month the Aquarium hosted a lecture by Gregor Cailliet who spoke about the “Life Histories of California Sharks and Rays”. Mr. Cailliet is the program director for the Pacific Shark Research Center, which can easily be called the premiere location for information on Elasmobranchii (sharks, rays, and skates) from our ocean, especially along the California coast.

When I first began my animal husbandry studies, I had no idea what “life history” meant, so let me briefly explain it. Essentially, life history is a timeline of events that track from conception or birth until death. These events can be many things: significant periods of change physically or mentally, important occurrences that cause a change in behaviors, frequently repeated actions, or even seemingly insignificant actions that cause a change in the organism’s path of life.

There are many things to study when trying to understand an organism’s “life history”. We look at a creature’s lifespan, when it matures through puberty to adulthood, what it’s diet is and how that diet may change over the lifespan, how fast it grows physically, how much food it needs to eat, what parasites does it have, how large is the territory it lives in, does it even have a specific territory, what is the reproductive cycle like, and so on.

Those are just a few of the subjects a scientist could focus on when studying a creature’s life history. The purpose of doing so, is so that we can better understand how and why an organism does what it does. It also helps us to understand the significance of that creature on this planet and specifically on the ecosystem it lives in. This, in turn, helps us to see our (human’s) effect on that ecosystem and how we can reduce our impact and help maintain it’s balance.

So in this lecture, we got to see many different types of sharks, rays, and relatives that peruse the California coast. One of the ones I found most interesting was the chimaera.

Chimaera are basically cousins to sharks and rays. Like sharks, they have no bones, but have cartilage instead. There are several different species within chimaera and they have a wide variety of body shapes. One thing they all have though, is this cool prehistoric look and long beautiful fins - though my opinion of beauty may differ from yours! Leave me a comment and let me know what you think of them!

One other cool part of this lecture night was that the Aquarium premiered a short film that we will be showing here. It’s called “Shark Smart – Restoring Order in the Ocean.” It was produced by the Aquarium of the Pacific and co-produced with the Roddenberry Dive Team.

As a sci-fi geek myself, having Eugene “Rod” Roddenberry (son of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry) there was pretty cool. It was good to see his passion for the exploration and protection of our seas. I very much enjoy seeing groups outside of aquariums and zoos taking an initiative to help promote and protect the natural environment.

A very educational and entertaining evening indeed, I hope you all take a peek at the upcoming lectures here. I am sure you will find at least one that sparks your interest! You can find a calendar of upcoming events here.

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