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Butterflies take flight in Aquarium’s new Ocean Journey building
Lush indoor rainforest will feature hundreds of fluttering butterflies

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (Jan. 26, 2005) – Imagine hundreds of butterflies fluttering about you and alighting on the plants and trees in an indoor rainforest. The air is thick with butterflies; some hover over flowers while others sip fruit juice from feeding stations. A few butterflies may even land on you.

The Tennessee Aquarium announced today that the new Ocean Journey building scheduled to open April 29 will include a stunning gallery to showcase hundreds of live butterflies in a 30-foot-high sunlit space. The Butterfly Garden is one of several new galleries featured in the Aquarium’s $30 million expansion.

“As visitors enter the Butterfly Garden, they will step into a world of tall tropical plants and exotic flowers,” said Charlie Arant, Aquarium president. “They’ll be surrounded by the sounds of a waterfall and bird song. And the air will be alive with hundreds of exotic butterflies - from as far away as Africa, Asia and Central America.

“Ocean Journey’s tropical rainforest will be the Aquarium’s third forest under glass, * and will feature both the Butterfly Garden and Tropical Cove,” Arant said. “Creating immersive, natural exhibits with animals that swim, crawl and fly is how we take families on an adventure above and below the water’s surface. Butterflies capture the imagination and are a terrific way to inspire wonder and appreciation for the natural world.”

“Aside from their beauty, butterflies are some of the most amazing creatures in the animal kingdom,” added Dave Collins, Aquarium curator of forests. “Not only do these animals undergo a series of impressive transformations during their lifecycle; they also display the ability to adapt to life in habitats from the Arctic tundra to the rainforests of the tropics.”

Visitors will get an up-close look at how these enchanting animals undergo an astonishing metamorphosis. With four distinct stages - egg, larva (caterpillar), pupa (chrysalis) and adult - visitors will learn about the butterfly’s lifecycle and may witness nature’s most charming aerialist as it emerges from its cocoon. A section of the exhibit will showcase chrysalises.

“Encased within its rigid case, the chrysalis isn’t hibernating. It’s frantically remaking itself,” Collins explained. “It emerges with huge compound eyes, long segmented legs, oversized wings and newly reorganized muscles to power the whole thing.”

Butterflies are arthropods. Adults have six legs, one pair of antennae and a segmented body consisting of a head, thorax and an abdomen.

Other exhibits in the Butterfly Garden will promote butterfly watching, butterfly gardening and other aspects of butterfly conservation. Visitors also will learn how butterfly farming is helping to protect rainforests by providing natives with an alternate income other than clearing the delicate habitat of a tropical rainforest.

“The primary threat to butterflies is habitat destruction and the use of pesticides,” said Collins. “Habitat changes and loss due to residential, agricultural and commercial development have resulted in profound changes in the composition of many butterfly communities.”

The Butterfly Garden and the other galleries being created in the new Ocean Journey are all part of the Chattanooga’s 21st Century Waterfront plan.

When the transformation of the waterfront is complete the Aquarium will be surrounded by: a $20 million expansion of the Hunter Museum of American Art; a $3-million renovation of the Creative Discovery Museum; enhanced public spaces along the riverfront at Ross’s Landing and on the north shore; a pedestrian pier and bridge; boat slips; vast green spaces; and a wetlands park and adventure playground. A dramatic underground passageway to the river will mark the beginning of the Trail of Tears that will celebrate Native American culture.

* The Aquarium’s original living forests under glass are in the River Journey building -- the Cove Forest and Mississippi Delta galleries. The Cove features the flora, fauna and four seasons of the Appalachian Mountains on Level 4. The Delta, located on Level 3, teems with life found in the fertile swamplands of the Louisiana Bayou.

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The Tennessee Aquarium inspires wonder and appreciation for the natural world. Admission is $14 per adult and $7.50 per child, ages 3-12. Each ticket purchased helps support Aquarium conservation programs. The IMAX® 3D Theater is next door to the Aquarium. Ticket prices are $7.75 per adult and $5.25 per child. Aquarium/IMAX combo tickets are $18 for adults and $10.50 for children. Advance tickets may be purchased online at www.tnaqua.org or by phone at 1-800-262-0695. The Aquarium, located on the banks of the Tennessee River in Chattanooga, is a non-profit organization. Open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas, the Aquarium and IMAX are accessible to people with disabilities. Members enjoy unlimited visits and other benefits. Call 267-FISH to join.

For more information about the new Ocean Journey building: http://www.tnaqua.org/Newsroom/ExpansionPressKit.asp

For downloadable images: http://www.tnaqua.org/Newsroom/Photo_library.asp

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