Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center

Girl in Aquarium

I spent my last Saturday at the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center. It’s been almost two decades since I last visited the tourist attraction, and I was instantly blown away by how much it had grown. Where previously there was a single tiny building with a dock leading out to the neighboring marsh, there was now two buildings with a football field’s worth of nature exhibits separating them, including several observation decks, Native American exhibits, and an aviary.

My sister and I checked out the 3-D IMAX film Sea Monsters: A Prehistoric Adventure, which follows a family of dolichorhynchops, and various archeologists examining clues in the fossil evidence to reconstruct the events in their lives. This film got added to my netflix, along with several other IMAX films in the same vein.

The aviary was pretty impressive for being a great big netted-in space, where most of the birds were allowed to roam free. Unfortunately, it was pretty cold out, so most of the birds were sleeping, leaving my sister and I to wonder if they would normally be migrating south, and how the center managed this. We also got to see the fabled duck phallus, which was as long as legend has it, and left me too shocked to take a photograph.

There’s a wide variety of aquariums in the two buildings covering the myriad aquatic habitats surrounding our locality. Developing shark embryos, sea turtles, puffer fish, sharks, sea horses, and countless other species of life in all their variety made for fascinating observations. My favorite was an Atlantic Octopus, normally a very shy animal and very intelligent, came out of its den and let me take like a bazillion photos of it.

Atlantic Octopus

Atlantic Octopus

The main draw for me was the traveling Our Weakening Web (PDF) exhibit, which featured many local species of wildlife that are endangered, and the Carolina Parakeet, only parrot species native to the eastern United States, that were driven to extinction in 1918 by farmers who considered them pests.

I’ve posted pictures of the aquarium to my flickr account.

Our Weakening Web runs until January 6th.

Cross-posted at GO (minus the duck phallus part).