Pacific Tank
Anemones, starfish, sea urchins and other residents of the Pacific habitat hang out as their tank gets its weekly cleaning.

We tend to associate exotic underwater species with warm climates. But you don’t have to go snorkeling in the Caribbean to see some gorgeous, brightly coloured sea creatures. The cool waters off the coast of British Columbia are home to vibrant animals, some of which will be featured in the water exhibit’s new Pacific Habitat.

starfish eating a mussel
A starfish dines on a mussel.

During the Pacific tank’s weekly cleaning, I had a chance to get a closer look at the habitat’s residents, including a variety of anemones in shades of crimson and blue-green. There were also a number of starfish, including a blood starfish that is the most amazing shade of deep red. I witnessed a large pink starfish snacking on a mussel. To feed, it bores a hole through the mussel’s shell with the mouth on the underside of its body, then protrudes its stomach into the shell to digest the fleshy part of the mussel.  The tank is also home to purple and red sea urchins, distant relatives of the starfish. If you hold an urchin in your hand and watch closely, you can see the long spines on its body waving gently.  The spines are a form of protection, but also help the urchin move and feed.

At first glance, the Pacific habitat may appear tranquil, but take a closer look and you’ll see a beautiful group of aquatic animals that are always active.