If you have visited recently, you may have noticed that one of our permanent galleries, Southern Land, Southern People, looks a bit different. Over the past few months we have been giving the gallery a bit of a makeover – no dramatic changes, but little modifications to make it more welcoming, and up to date with the latest research and findings. We’ve added some new display items for novelty, allowing us to share more stories.
We now have sharks in the gallery! Three species: the seal shark, the porbeagle shark, and the common thresher shark, are now on display. Why sharks? There is a good reason for choosing these fishes – they perfectly complement the gallery’s central theme that explores the links between nature and people and how they shape one another.
The gallery was designed to mirror southern New Zealand, displaying its wildlife and providing an insight into the lives of the southern people and their occupations. It reminds us that humans are not separate from nature and that human activities can threaten our precious wildlife, and even drive them to extinction.
So how do sharks convey this central theme? Firstly, these three are local to our southern waters. Sharks are also apex predators of the sea, maintaining the delicate balance between marine flora and fauna.
One of the occupations taken up by humans since they first arrived on this land is fishing. By removing sharks either by directly fishing them at sea, or indirectly as by-catch, we endanger these kingpins of the sea. Take away sharks, and the detrimental effects can cascade down the food chain, causing the whole marine ecosystem to topple like dominoes.
So, although sharks receive a lot of negative press, they are beneficial and their survival is crucial for the stability of marine life.
Over time, there will be more changes in the gallery. Some of the displays will include commercially important fish species like rubyfish and gemfish, together with maps and images of the sea floor. These show that despite how the ocean appears on the surface – a fathomless, reservoir of water – it is far from a homogenous environment. Below the waves, there are diverse physical features that mirror those seen on land. There are underwater mountains, deep-sided valleys and canyons, and long, narrow depressions or trenches. It is incredible how the marine environment is a world so strange and different from ours, yet so similar!
While these are just some of the highlights of the new-look gallery, there are many more to explore. Check out these new exhibits!
Thresher shark, seal shark and porbeagle shark on display in the Southern Land Southern People gallery