From speedy ocean animals to the world’s fastest sailboats, find out what it takes to be swift in the sea. Learn about the fascinating adaptations of the ocean’s fastest animals, examine a sailboat designed by ORACLE TEAM USA, defender of the 34th America’s Cup, and more!
See the amazing adaptations that sailfish, yellowfin tuna, Humboldt squid, and shortfin mako sharks have evolved for speed and long-distance ocean travel. From streamlined body shapes and retractable fins to piston-like muscles, these creatures demonstrate that there is more than one way to be fast in fluid. After comparing the forms of these speedy animals, put your knowledge to the test by making a fictitious fast fish out of fanciful fins and body shapes.
Built to Race
See ORACLE TEAM USA’s AC72 and AC45 wing-sail catamarans in action on San Francisco Bay.
ORACLE TEAM USA's AC45 and AC72 wing-sail catamarans demonstrate creative design and boundary-breaking technology. Catch a glimpse of the AC45 catamaran suspended from the ceiling between the Swamp and the Piazza.
The Orca Lab
Photo courtesy of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Pacific Biological Station, Cetacean Research Program
During the first few weeks of Built for Speed, visitors will be able to watch as Academy staff and volunteers carefully assemble the skeleton of an 18-foot-long juvenile orca that washed ashore deceased at Point Reyes National Seashore in November 2011. The skeleton was retrieved and transported to the Academy for future scientific study. Once assembled, the skeleton will be on view for the duration of the exhibit.
Plastic waste, wastewater pollution, and unsustainable fishing are three major threats to the health of the oceans today. Learn about these threats and find out how you can help at Ocean Action stations throughout the exhibit. Created from manmade marine debris, these stations highlight community-based initiatives offering tips for taking conservation action.
Orcas, also known as killer whales, are the fastest members of the dolphin family. They can reach top speeds of 55 km/h in open water or cruise slowly during long oceanic migrations. Their large size, great strength, and torpedo-shaped bodies contribute to the marine mammals’ prowess as mighty hunters.
Listen to an Orca’s Call
Orca recording courtesy of John K. Ford, PhD, Pacific Biological Station, Fisheries and Oceans Canada
A Rare Specimen
Photo courtesy of Ben Yaffe
Long before the juvenile orca washed ashore in Northern California, researchers knew him. Scientists had photographed this orca off the coasts of Canada and Alaska and identified him as Orca O319. He died of unknown causes.
Academy scientist Moe Flannery led the team that responded to the stranding. Since little is known about this type of orca—called an offshore ecotype—the skeleton was retrieved and transported to the Academy for future scientific study.
Learn more about her year-long experience with Orca O319.
Rebuilding Orca O319
Follow “bone-building expert” Lee Post, Academy staff, and volunteers as we articulate the bones of a real orca skeleton on the exhibit floor. Follow our progress and submit your questions.
Stairs / Elevator to Living Roof & Naturalist Center
Swamp (Aquarium Level)
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Our Actions Matter
Ocean Action sculptures created by Richard Lang and Judith Selby Lang. Learn more
We are all stewards of the ocean, and collectively we are helping fragile marine ecosystems and the amazing animals that live there. Join with millions of others through partner organizations and be part of the solution by taking steps to reduce plastic waste, unsustainable fishing practices, and wastewater pollution.
Pass on Plastic
There are numerous ways to reduce the amount of plastic trash–from toys to takeout containers–that blows into waterways and rides the ocean currents.
What can you do?
Photo courtesy of Stiv Wilson/5gyres.org
The nonprofit 5Gyres is working to create a planet free of plastic pollution. Millions of tons of tiny bits of plastic float in giant patches—also called gyres—in oceans around the world. It degrades slowly and endangers sea creatures that mistake it for food.
Photo courtesy of Rik Panganiban
The best way to keep plastic out of the ocean is by using less of it, but you can also be imaginative and find creative ways to reuse plastic trash. See how the Academy’s Pearson Young Scientists did just that as sustainability sleuths.
Photo courtesy of Michael Stewart
Participate in the Waste to Waves program, a recycling effort that collects your Styrofoam waste and recycles these materials into new surfboard foam cores. Check out their website to find a convenient drop-off spot. Learn more
Be Seafood Savvy
Creative Commons: Jon Anderson
When eating, make ocean-friendly choices. Your seafood selections will help protect the health of the food chain and sustain wild, diverse, and healthy ocean ecosystems.
Make it easy by using the Seafood Watch® smartphone app, created by the Monterey Bay Aquarium. This easy-to-use pocket app helps you select the best choices on a seafood menu and tells you which items to avoid.
Save 44% off admission to California Academy of Sciences, plus 4 more top San Francisco attractions: 7-day MUNI Passport, Blue & Gold Fleet Bay Cruise, Exploratorium, Monterey Bay Aquarium OR Aquarium of the Bay. Adult: $84 (value $149) Child (5-11): $59 (value $112) CityPASS is valid for nine days beginning the first day of use.