living shores

Several touch pools, aquariums, and interactive computer kiosks in Living Shores allow you to discover the small invertebrates found in the shallow waters of the Laguna Madre and Padre Island bays and estuaries.

See the strange and wonderful species that you might find hiding among rocks and tide pools during a day at the beach, including hermit crabs, horseshoe crabs, lightning whelks, and pencil urchins. This exhibit allows for hands-on interactions, giving you the opportunity to reach out and gently touch many of these fascinating species. Learn from our helpful and knowledgeable staff about how these amazing creatures’ characteristics help them survive along the Texas shore. The touch pool is surrounded by even more coastal creatures, including blue crabs, shrimp, and toadfish. You can also find seahorses here, clinging to grasses and corals with their prehensile tails. Anchored to these natural “hitching posts,” these seahorse’s eyes scan their environment for bits of passing food like brine shrimp. Living Shores shows that incredible ocean life doesn’t just exist hundreds of miles out to sea, and reminds us to look everywhere for these creatures and to safeguard their existence.

animals in this exhibit

  • Lined Seahorse

    These truly unique creatures, which can measure almost 6 inches long, are vulnerable in the wild due to coastal growth and pollution. They are monogamous, bonding with a partner for life, where the male gives birth to the offspring.

  • Common Sea Star

    The most common starfish in the Atlantic, this starfish has five arms can grow 30 cm across or larger. It is usually found on rocky banks, where it feeds on mollusks and other invertebrates.

  • Pencil Sea Urchin

    Also known as “sea hedgehogs” for their spines, these echinoids have much more widely separated spines than other urchins. Their spines are also not as sharp, with many guests saying they feel like a dull stick.

  • Horseshoe Crab

    These invertebrates are considered living fossils, having first originated around 450 million years ago. They live in shallow oceans waters on soft and muddy bottoms, feeding on crustaceans and small fish.

  • Toadfish

    Getting their name from their toad-like appearance, these fish can produce sounds with their swim bladders, which they use as a mating call.

  • Atlantic Spadefish

    This disk-shaped fish spends its juvenile years in estuaries, before moving out into shallow mangroves, beaches, and harbors as an adult.

  • Blue Crab

    Native to the Gulf of Mexico, the Blue Crab is easily distinguishable by the color of its bright blue walking legs.

  • Hermit Crab

    These crabs spend most of their lives underwater as aquatic animals, living in depths of saltwater.