The Shedd Aquarium’s “Underwater Beauty” Exhibit Will Have You Hooked
By Maya Gorman
“Life underwater shimmers with beauty.” That is the first phrase seen while walking into the new Underwater Beauty Exhibit at the Shedd Aquarium, located on the mezzanine level next to the gift shop, near the Sounding Café and Restaurant. The exhibit focuses on three major factors of adaptations seen in aquatic animals: colors, patterns, and rhythms.
“[This exhibit] is supposed to teach about the different colors and patterns that fish have and it's supposed to represent how the colors help the fish camouflage into their surroundings and how the patterns protect them from predators. If a predator sees that they have stripes they may think the fish is poisonous so they don't want to bite down on them and it's just supposed to help teach that,” said one of the museum curators.
The exhibit begins by showcasing a large fish tank of shimmering fish amid low lighting. “Discover a living rainbow,” while continuing further into the “Colors” section where, at first, we see various colored panels based on the colors of the rainbow hanging from the ceiling. On the left, there is an array of small tanks, each dedicated to a different color of the rainbow and containing a fish species that have that specific color. For example, the yellow tank houses yellow tang.
“Underwater animals change colors to hide, surprise and communicate,” concludes the “Colors” section, which then leads museum-goers into the “Patterns” section. Panels with different patterns like dots, maze lines, and fingerprint lines hang from the ceiling. “Patterns deceive, conceal and reveal.”
Further, into the exhibit, more information is provided about the advantages of having patterns on scales. “The water makes the patterns blur, blending with the edges and lines of the reefscape,” making the fish harder to spot for predators. To the left of this sign is a large tank with fish sporting various patterns. Next to that are interactive machines with touchscreens used to search for different patterns and fish that have those patterns. “Imagine a life spent entirely in water, water flowing all around you, would you ripple, would you sway, would you drift away?”
The exhibit concludes with the “Rhythms” section, which is surrounded by tanks of fish that move through the water in a beautiful way, like eels and jellyfish. We ask ourselves, “how many amazing ways can animals move” and we are answered when we see the jellyfish tanks, including one that houses small blue jellyfish, and one that houses orange jellyfish with long tentacles. In this section, there is also an interactive display where people can dance in front of a screen and entertain the animals.
The exhibit ends with a large tank illuminated by rotating mirrors on the ceiling which cast light on the ground that gives it the appearance of water. The phrase “Drink in the beauty of life underwater-come, let it move you,” is also illuminated on the floor.