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Rocky Shore

The shoreline is the border between two worlds, a fluid boundary where the water advances and retreats with the rhythm of the tides. Here, barnacles stand on their heads and wave their feathery legs in the currents and brilliant ochre stars ply the rocks.

In this Exhibit

California mussel

Layers of interwoven mussel shells look lifeless when exposed to air, but under water they come alive. The shells open slightly and tiny hairs, or cilia, beat rhythmically to draw in water carrying tiny particles of food. Where waves pound the rocks, mussels out-compete other animals and plants for space. But mussels can't take over completely—other predators, such as lobsters, crabs and sea stars, eat them in areas where waves don't pound as hard. Algae, barnacles and others use the cleared living space.

Monkeyface prickleback

Long and eel-like, monkeyface-eels sport a bluntly rounded snout, large fleshy lips and two black lines that radiate from behind their eyes. A dorsal fin runs along the eel's back. A lumpy ridge appears on adult monkeyface-eels' heads. Their color ranges from uniform light brown to dark green—some specimens have orange spots on their bodies and orange-colored fin tips.

Giant green anemone

This green plantlike creature is actually an animal with algae plants living inside it. In this symbiotic relationship, the algae gain protection from snails and other grazers and don't have to compete for living space, while the anemones gain extra nourishment from the algae in their guts. Contrary to popular opinion, this anemone's green color is produced by the animal itself, not the algae that it eats.

Acorn barnacle

Acorn barnacles, related to shrimp, hide their identity in snail-like shells. But they begin life as free swimming larvae. When the time comes to settle, the larvae "glue" their heads to hard surfaces, such as pilings, wharfs, ships, rocks or other hard-shelled animals.

More Rocky Shore Animals

Cool Facts

  • Our Wave Crash gallery pumps about 600 gallons of water and "crashes" every 30 seconds. That's more than 500,000 gallons per eight-hour day.
  • The walk-through tunnel in the wave crash exhibit is one of the most popular family photo spots in the Aquarium—timing your shot is part of the fun.
  • Galleries within the Rocky Shore get raw seawater at night; during the day, the water is filtered to provide a clearer view.
  • The concept of intertidal "zones" was first described by Monterey biologist Ed Ricketts in his landmark book, Between Pacific Tides, which also influenced the design and layout of the entire Aquarium.

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