Claire Taylor is an assistant curator at the Two Oceans Aquarium, and responsible for managing the team that creates and maintains all our spectacular exhibits. We asked her about her 10 favourite animals at the Aquarium, and she gave us this list (in no particular order):

Kingklip

"The kingklip is very shy, but it tries very hard to be super-friendly," says Claire. The kinglip (Genypterus capensis) is not exactly the prettiest fish in the school, but what it lacks in looks it makes up for in taste ... hence being on the WWF Sassi Orange list, meaning "think twice".

Yellowbelly rockcod

The yellowbelly rockcod, says Claire, is "arrogant and fussy. Things must happen in their own time." A rockcod is a slow-growing fish and can get as old as 24 years, so they’re probably not in much of a hurry. Large adults have been spotted in the deep canyons off Sodwana Bay.

Short-tail stingray

"Short-tail stingrays think of themselves as little lap dogs, but a bull in a china shop is a better description," says Claire. Although the barb in their tails can inflict a severe or potentially fatal wound, short-tail stingrays are generally more inquisitive than aggressive. “They have no idea of their size and strength.”

See also: Aquarium performs first-ever stingray blood transfusion

Sunfish

 

"Mola mola are ridiculous and very trusting fish. They can go from ungainly to super-efficient in a heartbeat," says Claire

Sunfish are the largest bony fish in the ocean. They can grow up to 3m in length and approximately 2 000kg in weight. Ocean sunfish are found in all the oceans of the world, excluding the icy polar seas.

The Two Oceans Aquarium has a long-standing relationship with sunfish in Cape waters. Every summer sunfish come into the Waterfront, Table Bay and Simon’s Town harbours, and are often injured and/or disorientated. Sometimes they are trapped in the dry docks and Two Oceans Aquarium staff are called out to rescue them before the docks are drained of water.

See also:

Seals

Photo courtesy Brenton Geach/Cape Argus

"Seals are the labradors of the sea," says Claire, who has years of first-hand experience with the Cape fur seals that live and play in the V&A Waterfront harbour. She is part of our “seal rescue team” and was instrumental in setting up the seal platform outside Shoreline Café, where Aquarium staff routinely free Cape fur seals that are entangled in plastic box bands, fishing line and other plastic pollutants.

Check out the video below to get an idea of the work involved on the platform:

Corals

Photo courtesy Kate Rau

It takes a lot of patience and attention to detail to work with corals and keep them healthy. "They keep you on your toes, but show you when you get the job right," says Claire, referring to the gorgeous colours exhibited by colonies of animals (polyps) that form soft coral reefs.

Penguins

“Penguins are endearing … eventually," says Claire. They may bray, they may bite, their beaks may be unpredictable, but at the end of the day close relationships are formed with our seabirds.

At the Aquarium we have endangered African penguins and rockhopper penguins. Both species exhibit a whole lot of attitude and personality. (Find out for yourself with a Penguin Encounter here at the Aquarium.)

Giant spider crabs

The giant spider crabs in the Atlantic Oceans Gallery were collected by Tokyo Sea Life Park in Japan and sent to the Two Oceans Aquarium.

Despite what their alien-like appearance might imply, giant spider crabs are "super-gentle," says Claire. As with all crustaceans, continual growth is impossible for giant spider crabs because of their hard exoskeletons. To grow, the crabs have to shed this exoskeleton by moulting. This is a complicated process which can take up to two days. Each moult is potentially life-threatening as the crab can become entrapped in its old shell. Even if the moult is successful, the sheer effort is sometimes so exhausting, that the crab dies soon afterwards. To appreciate just how vulnerable they can be, check out these images of a moulting giant spider crab.

Beroe jellyfish

Photo courtesy Eric Heupel

"Beroe jellyfish disguise themselves as simple, pretty lights, but this is not the case. They are voracious cunning predators that lure you in," says Claire. Their most distinctive feature is “combs” – groups of cilia that are used for swimming.

They are predators and can take prey as small as microscopic larvae and rotifers or small crustacean adults. These jellyfish can eat ten times their own weight in a day.

Soles

Soles have compressed, asymmetrical bodies with both eyes on the same side of the head. That makes them right-eyed flatfishes – the eyes are found on the right side of the body – which means they’re pretty funny-looking.

Add to that the fact that they’re camouflage artists – they are sandy-coloured and blend into the sand – and their tendency to burrow beneath the sand, and what you end up with are fish, as Claire puts it, that are “just a little bit silly about everything”.

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