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Sea Life aquarium adds Australian creatures

Updated: 2013-11-22T04:24:35Z

By MATT CAMPBELL

The Kansas City Star

A giant moray eel and zebra sharks now swim in the Sea Life aquarium in Crown Center, marking the largest infusion of aquatic creatures since the attraction opened a year and a half ago.

The animals, more than 100 in all, come from waters near Australia and form the focus of a new exhibit called the Bay of Rays. Most of the fish were put on exhibit Thursday for the first time.

“Sea Life is not as big as some aquariums, but we have a variety of fish that you can’t see just anywhere,” said Aaron Sprowl, displays curator for Sea Life.

The new creatures include four species of rays that glide through the 5,500-gallon tank at the end of Sea Life’s meandering layout. Leopard whiptail rays and blue-spotted stingrays are more colorful than the Caribbean rays that previously occupied the display.

Other colorful fish have equally exotic names: harlequin tuskfish, yellow lunar wrasse and redtoothed triggerfish. There are 21 tropical species, all airlifted from Cairns, Australia, to Dallas and then trucked to Kansas City.

The animals were raised in captivity, not taken from the wild. Sea Life hopes to continue to breed them to supply other North American aquariums.

“If we could get zebra shark pups, that would be awesome,” said Sprowl, who selected the species he wanted to import. “One of our goals was to get new animals to introduce into the U.S. studbook” — breeding stock.

Patty Jeter of Broken Arrow, Okla., was among the first visitors to Sea Life to get a look at the new exhibit Thursday.

“It’s beautiful to look at,” said Jeter, who was in town visiting her niece, Angie Surgnier of Platte City.

“One of the things I like about this is you’re able to walk up and look over on top,” Jeter said of a catwalk above the tank. “That gives a different view.”

To reach Matt Campbell, call 816-234-4902 or send email to mcampbell@kcstar.com.

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