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Vibrant Butterfly Garden tops Aquarium's new Ocean Journey

Indoor rainforest features exotic plants and free-flying butterflies

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (Feb. 21, 2005) – Imagine an indoor rainforest filled with hundreds of jewel-colored butterflies that hover over flowers, sip nectar from feeding stations and even alight on delighted guests. These exotic and beautiful butterflies delight the senses, and visitors to the Butterfly Garden in the Tennessee Aquarium’s new Ocean Journey building will discover other reasons to appreciate these whimsical creatures.

“As guests enter the Butterfly Garden, they 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 birdsong. The air will be alive with a thousand exotic butterflies – from as far away as Africa, Asia and Central America.”

But aside from their beauty, butterflies are some of the most amazing creatures in the animal kingdom.

“Not only do they undergo a series of miraculous transformations during their life cycles, they also display the ability to adapt to life in habitats from the Arctic tundra to the rainforests of the tropics,” said Dave Collins, Aquarium curator of forests. “In addition, butterflies play an important role in the ecosystem by serving as plant pollinators and as a link in the food chain.”

Visitors will get an up-close look at these captivating creatures during the last part of their astonishing metamorphosis. From egg to larva (caterpillar), to pupa (chrysalis) and then adult, butterflies have an amazing life cycle. Guests in the Butterfly Garden will be able to observe adult butterflies and study chrysalises. Those who are patient may even have the opportunity to watch as an adult emerges from the chrysalis, spreads its wings and eventually takes flight.

“Although a chrysalis looks inert, it is not,” Collins explained. “Inside, is a creature that is frantically remaking itself. It emerges with huge compound eyes, segmented legs, oversized wings and newly reorganized muscles that power the entire thing.”

Other areas of the Butterfly Garden will promote butterfly watching, butterfly gardening and other aspects of butterfly conservation. Visitors will also learn how butterfly farming is helping to protect rainforests by providing farmers an alternative to 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 Chattanooga’s 21st Century Waterfront plan.

In addition to the Aquarium’s Ocean Journey building, the 21st Century Waterfront plan includes 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; a wetlands park and an adventure playground. A dramatic underground passageway to the river will mark the beginning of the Trail of Tears and will celebrate Native American culture.

The Tennessee Aquarium inspires wonder and appreciation for the natural world. Admission is $17.95 per adult and $9.50 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 $7.95 per adult and $5.50 per child. Aquarium/IMAX combo tickets are $21.95 for adults and $12.50 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.

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