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Colorful, Captivating Animals Found in Shedd’s Refreshed Wild Reef Exhibit

Hypnotic flamboyant cuttlefish, pulsing upside-down jellies and powerful peacock mantis shrimp continue to wow guests in new space

June 27, 2023

A tiny but colorful cuttlefish spreads its tentacles striped in maroon, yellow and white.

Several Shedd resident aquatic animals have experienced a recent move – from the now sunsetted special exhibit to the recently refreshed and re-imagined Wild Reef exhibit, celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. Some of the animals that have traveled to this new space are the flamboyant cuttlefish (Metasepia pfefferi), uniquely shaped, colorful animals from the cephalopod class, upside-down jellies (Cassiopea xamachana), whose unusual adaptations helped influence their name, and the small but mighty peacock mantis shrimp (Odontodactylus scyllarus).

All three of these animals have fascinating traits:

  • Flamboyant Cuttlefish: These oddly shaped cephalopods undulate through the water in a way that is often described as dance-like, displaying vibrant yellow, maroon, brown and white markings across their bodies. They can also be found “walking” along the floors of their habitats using their arms and fin-like legs! While most other cephalopods camouflage to mimic their surroundings and avoid detection from predators or to stalk their prey, flamboyant cuttlefish typically do not. Instead, they use their colorful, strobing body to distract prey, communicate with others and ward off predators due to their appearances’ reference to their toxicity.
  • Upside-down Jellies: As their name implies, these jellies have a distinct and unusual habit of resting upside down with their bell in contact with the habitat floor and their arms extending upward. By reclining in this position, the jelly exposes its algae, which it uses as a means of sustenance, to the sun, allowing it to photosynthesize. Their bell is even flattened in shape compared with other jellies, which aids them in maintaining this position.
  • Peacock Mantis Shrimp: These animals only grow on average between 2-7 inches in length – but they are known to pack a punch, with the ability to unfurl their appendages to pulverize or stun prey (sometimes larger than themselves) through swift and strong blows. These shrimp are also rainbow in hue – with spots of red, green, orange and blue across their bodies.

Wild Reef’s refreshed updates include over 90 new signs and graphics, seven new digital and physical interactives, and, of course, the addition of the new-to-the-exhibit animal residents described above. In this exhibit, guests can dive into a thriving reef system, learn about the role of coral within larger ecosystems, come face-to-face with sharks and view a variety of smaller aquatic animals in habitats throughout the space.

Guests can see these animals and the other astonishing residents of Wild Reef as part of general admission. Tickets and information for planning a visit can be found online:

VISUALS: The visuals below show each of the three animals in separate habitats displaying natural behaviors.


Video Credit: ©Shedd Aquarium/Sam Cejtin

Photo Credit: ©Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez