by TFH Magazine on February 17, 2012 at 12:52 pm
Walking into the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life at the American Museum of Natural History is an experience unlike any other—right at the entrance is a 94-foot long model of a blue whale. This iconic piece of New York scenery is just one of the many life-like displays in the hall itself. Having last been to the museum when I was a kid, it was enjoyable to see the exhibits from an entirely different perspective.
One of the things in the hall that caught my eye was how many species that are so prevalent today were found in ancient seas. For example, there was a fossil of a close relative of the modern horseshoe crab showing the crab walking along a trail before ultimately dying. Horseshoe crabs are somewhat uncommon in aquaria, but as “The Reefer” columnist James Fatherree wrote, they can live for up to 10 to 15 years in captivity.
There were also several dioramas replicating ancient seas. The one showing the Ordovician Sea covered an area that is now Ohio! It featured a relative of squid and an ancient arthropod. Although squid are not typically found in modern-day tanks, arthropods are immensely popular in the form of crustaceans.
Next to the Ordovician Sea diorama was the Cretaceous Sea one, which showed a section that covers modern-day Tennessee. An ammonite, an ancient, extinct relative of the nautilus, is prominently featured in this display. For experienced aquarists only, nautiluses can make a unique species only setup, as described by Bob Goemans in the March 2009 “Invertebrate of the Month.”
Next time you are looking into your tank, maybe you’ll see something that reminds you of ancient seas and maybe you can even learn a bit about the history of your animals. One great place to start as at the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life at the American Museum of Natural History.