The Living Coasts Aquarium in Torquay has introduced a unique exhibit celebrating the marine wildlife of South Devon.
The ~Local Coasts exhibit cost 40,000 and is themed to look like the underside of a seaside pier. It features seven separate tanks including a rock pool with and a dump bucket to simulate waves and a tunnel which allows visitors to crawl underneath it. The seawater tank features starfish, anemones and cuttlefish.
They also plan to eventually keep native seahorses. The waters off Devon are home to both UK seahorse species " the spiny seahorse, Hippocampus guttulatus, and the short snouted seahorse, Hippocampus hippocampus. Both were recently given protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act to reflect their vulnerability.
Living Coasts director Elaine Hayes said: "Only a small number of zoos have native seahorses. We want to make a positive contribution to native seahorse conservation by keeping these wonderful creatures and deepening our understanding of their behaviour and biology."
In the meantime, the aquarium has agreed with the European studbook to keep the more robust Australian big-bellied seahorses Hippocampus abdominalis. This will enable them to develop their expertise before branching into native seahorses which are trickier to keep and breed.
The Local Coast exhibit is part of a 1 million makeover for the aquarium which started last summer with the opening of Mangroves - The Roots of the Sea. The first British exhibit to focus on a mangrove swamp habitat; one of the most threatened habitats in the world.