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27 March to 13 September 2015. Dive into the Secret Cities of the Sea

Monday 18th May, 2015

Get close to spectacular seascapes next year in a new exhibition at the Natural History Museum.

Coral Reefs: Secret Cities of the Sea will include a live coral reef, a virtual dive and more than 200 specimens such as corals, fish and fossils. This exhibition will explore the richness of life beneath the waves, and its announcement marks World Oceans Day.

Coral reefs are found in shallow waters in the tropics and are home to almost a quarter of all living species in the sea. While they only make up around 0.1% of Earth’s surface, more than 500 million people depend on coral reefs for their livelihood. 

The benefits they provide, such as fishing, tourism and protection from storms, are estimated to be worth more than £200 billion each year.

Dr Ken Johnson, coral reef researcher at the Natural History Museum, said, ‘Coral reefs are not simply beautiful environments. They provide food, income and storm protection for many millions of people around the world.' 

‘Climate change, pollution and overfishing have had a major effect on them. A quarter of coral reefs around the world are sadly damaged beyond repair and many more are still under serious threat.' 

Exhibition partner Catlin Group Limited is the title sponsor of the Catlin Seaview Survey, a multi-year project that works with some of the world’s leading scientific institutions to monitor coral reef health. Stunning imagery from this research project will be an integral part of Coral Reefs: Secret Cities of the Sea. High-definition panoramic views displayed on 180-degree screens will help visitors to the exhibition experience what it is like to navigate through coral reefs.

The exhibition will contain more than 200 specimens from the Museum’s vast collections. Displays will include specimens collected by Darwin on the HMS Beagle expedition from 1831 to 1836, giant washing machine-sized Turbinaria coral, and some of the strange and spectacular creatures that call the reefs home, from venomous blue-ringed octopus to tiny sponge crabs.

Although corals can look rock-like, they are actually colonies of tiny animals related to jellyfish, with limestone skeletons. Corals grow incredibly slowly, sometimes as little as one or two millimetres a year. They are highly sensitive to changes in the ocean, such as temperature, pollution and acidity. Coral reefs and the enormous variety of life they host can act as early warning signals, alerting us to changing conditions in the oceans.

Coral Reefs: Secret Cities of the Sea; Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD; Ticket prices: adult £10, child and concession £4.50, family £24 (up to two adults and three children), free for Members, Patrons and children under four; Open from 27 March to 13 September 2015; I: www.nhm.ac.uk

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