At the Two Oceans Aquarium, we believe that the best way to learn is to engage all the senses. The Skretting Touch Pool Exhibit takes your child's Aquarium experience a step further - by letting them get "hands-on" with some of our diverse ocean life.

Species selected for the exhibit are hardy enough to withstand your touch, and varied enough to demonstrate a wide range of unique and interesting adaptations that help them survive the waters of the Western Cape. You'll never forget the slimy sea lettuce, or the prickly Cape sea urchins. Here are some of the Touch Pool regulars:

Giant chiton

Giant chitons (Dinoplax gigas) are unusual-looking molluscs, with segmented shells that allow them to stick tightly to any curved surface (feel it - it's really tough). They hide under rocks during the day and emerge at night to eat algae and barnacles.

This giant chiton (Dinoplax gigas) might look like a woodlouse, but it is actually more similar to a snail. Image courtesy of Eastern Cape Scuba Diving.

Dead man's fingers & upright codium

The upright codium (Codium duthieae) and dead man's fingers (Splachnidium rugosum) are called seaweeds, but they aren't plants! They are actually types of spongy green algae that form forked tubes. They can sometimes look flattened, but if you give them a gentle squeeze, the individual tubes will separate.

Dead man's fingers (Splachnidium rugosum), scary name, harmless algae. Image courtesy of AlgaeBase.

Sandy anemone

Anemones might look like flowers, but they are actually animals! They use venomous barbs on their tentacles to catch food and move it to their mouth (which is also their anus). The sandy anemone (Aulactinia reynaudi) also has tentacles, but it can't sting human hands, so it is safe to touch - very gently, please.

Sandy anemones (Aulactinia reynaudi) just love to show off their beautiful colours.

Cape sea urchin

The Cape sea urchin (Parechinus angulosus) is a spikey little fellow, but it can't hurt you unless you squeeze it very hard. It roams around in shallow waters eating bits of kelp and broken seaweed. This species used to be very common in nature, but unfortunately it is becoming more rare due to threats to its habitat.  

Be careful not to poke the prickly Cape sea urchin (Parechinus angulosus) too hard!

Sea lettuce

We commonly have two species of sea lettuce on display (Ulva fasciata and Ulva rigida). Unlike real lettuce, sea lettuce is an algae - not a plant. But just like real lettuce, it makes a great salad and is actually Sandy the green turtle's favourite snack!

A specimen of ribbon sea lettuce (Ulva fasciata). Image courtesy of AlgaeBase.

Hanging wrack

Hanging wrack (Brassicophycus brassicaeformis) looks similar to dead man's fingers, with branching tube-shaped stems, but it is actually a brown algae related to kelp. Its stems are soft and it is able to hang down over the sides of rocks. Hanging wrack is found only in a very small area, between Sea Point and Struisbaai.

Hanging wrack (Brassicophycus brassicaeformis) is a close relative of kelp. Image courtesy of AlgaeBase.

Volunteer

The hardiest of all the species at this exhibit, Homo sapiens volo are selected from the best and brightest of the Two Oceans Aquarium's volunteer team and Young Biologists. They are available at the Skretting Touch Pool Exhibit throughout the day to help children (and adults) experience the other animals first hand and provide any information they may desire about our precious oceans.

Volunteers (Homo sapiens volo) are rarely seen in the wild...

At night, our collections divers release the volunteers back into the ocean.

Purple laver

Purple laver (Porphyra capensis) looks like a purple-brown version of sea lettuce, but it has the awesome ability to survive outside of sea water for a long time without drying out. Purple laver is actually edible and you can even make yummy sushi out of it!

Purple laver (Porphyra capensis) like this is 100% edible - just give it a wash first. Image courtesy of AlgaeBase.

Tongue weed

Tongue weed (Gigartina polycarpa) is another red algae, like purple laver, but, it anchors itself to a rock and grows short, fat stems with rough bumps that feel just like a real tongue!

This is tongue weed (Gigartina polycarpa). Image courtesy of AlgaeBase.
This is NOT tongue weed, it is Canis lupus familiaris. Image courtesy of MaxPixel.

Hedgehog seaweed

Tufts of hedgehog seaweed (Nothogenia erinacea) grow in sandy patches along our West Coast. Their stems are covered in rough little bristles - these help them to keep small air spaces open if they get buried by sand, and they can survive this way for a very long time.

Hedgehog seaweed (Nothogenia erinacea) has tons of adaptations to help it survive underground, or out of the water! Image courtesy of AlgaeBase.

Klipvis

From the mighty super klipvis (Clinus supercliliosus) to the small West Coast klipvis (Clinus heterodon) the Skretting Touch Pool is often home to one or two of the many species of klipvis that call the Western Cape's coast home. You probably won't be able to move quickly enough to touch these little fish, but they are harmless and help us keep the Skretting Touch Pool's ecosystem health by eating any bugs or parasites that might get into the water.

A large bluntnose klipvis (Clinus cottoides) from our Indian Ocean Gallery. The ones you'll see in the Skretting Touch Pool are much smaller.

Red sea star

This five-armed animal is a "sea star", not a "starfish" - it's technically not a fish! The red sea star (Callopatiria granifera) is a scavenger, it doesn't hunt shellfish like most other sea stars, and you might see ours sifting through the sand of the Skretting Touch Pool for scraps of food.

Red sea stars (Callopatiria granifera) need to turn their stomach inside out to eat food, and then swallow it again when they are full.

Alikreukel

Alikreukel, also known as a giant turban snail (Turbo sarmaticus), is a large edible sea snail that lives in rock pools on South African shores. It has a lid that it can close when it goes into its shell to keep water inside so it doesn't dry out - you might see this lid in action at the Skretting Touch Pool Exhibit.

This isn't your average garden snail, this is an alikreukel (Turbo sarmaticus). Image courtesy of Eastern Cape Scuba Dive.

Kelp

There are many species of kelp - they are largest and fastest growing of all algaes and form huge underwater forests (and they are also used to make ice cream). Kelp is vitally important for forming habitats along our coast, and we regularly display samples of sea bamboo (Ecklonia maxima), split-fan kelp (Laminaria pallida) and bladder kelp (Macrocystis angustifolia) in the Skretting Touch Pool Exhibit.

*Please note that the species present in the Skretting Touch Pool Exhibit are regularly released and swapped with new specimens from the wild to reduce the stress on the animals. For this reason, species on display may vary slightly from week to week.

Other ways to captivate the senses at the Two Oceans Aquarium

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