Join us to celebrate the reopening of our Kelp Forest Exhibit with an incredible evening of inspiration on 31 January 2019: Kelp Night will be a not-to-be-repeated night of wonder and awe!
Ecosystems depend on biodiversity to remain healthy, and our Kelp Forest Exhibit is no exception. The first batch of creatures that we added were chosen for their resilience and importance to the natural ecosystem. Each animal in the exhibit has a role to play in this ever-evolving ocean ecosystem.
We are incredibly pleased to finally reopen this massive 800 000 litre exhibit - bringing all three of your favourite exhibits back online for the holiday season!
As time goes on, they will be joined by an even greater diversity of specialist creatures but, for now, please enjoy these five exceptional examples of South Africa's kelp forest life:
The red stumpnose (Chrysoblephus gibbiceps) is a large red and white fish with a high forehead and protruding mouth. Older males develop a protruding forehead hump, much like that of the black musselcracker in the I&J Ocean Exhibit.
Its jutting jaw holds multiple rows of small molars, and several razor-sharp canines which it uses to pry small invertebrates from their hiding places amongst kelp holdfasts, and snatch the occasional unlucky fish too.
By far the most important organism in the South African kelp forest, sea bamboo (Ecklonia maxima) is a giant species of kelp that grows only on the coasts of South Africa and Namibia. Its thick, gas-filled stems can support the giant algae to lengths of over 12m, ending in large floating bulbs that keep its leathery fronds near the water's surface.
Sea bamboo is critical to the survival of a multitude of other species. In its shade, rich ecosystems of other algae, urchins, shellfish, crustaceans and echinoderms flourish. It is also known to support several species of algae and limpet that grow on it, and nowhere else.
Spotted gully shark
Xilo the spotted gully shark (Triakis megalopterus) has moved out of the cold reef into a newer, bigger home in the Kelp Forest Exhibit. She belongs to a group of fish called "houndsharks" which are characterised by having two large dorsal fins and a third eyelid.
This little shark is a nocturnal predator that feeds mostly on crustaceans and octopuses - so no threat to the other iconic species of the exhibit.
The white steenbras typically migrates to sandy-bottomed coasts, where its long snout allows it to prey on burrowing invertebrates, but it also spends much time in the safety of kelp forests and shallow estuaries, especially to spawn and to protect its young.
Northern rockhopper penguin
Although not technically a kelp forest dweller, our northern rockhoppers (Eudyptes moseleyi) have resumed taking their morning swim in the Kelp Forest Exhibit - be sure to see them dart about if you visit us early!
In their natural habitats around Tristan da Cunha and Gough Island, rockhopper penguins are active, energetic swimmers. The deep Kelp Forest Exhibit provides as perfect "playground" for these penguins to get their daily exercise.
What's your favourite ocean wonder?