Chain of Food
A school of northern anchovies swirls through the Kelp Forest exhibit, a visibly shimmering strand of the ocean food web. Look closely and you'll see the anchovies swimming with their mouths open wide, straining tiny plant and animal plankton from the water. These small baitfish feed on microscopic morsels and then make a meal for passing fishes, marine mammals and seabirds.
These fish swim in densely packed schools of thousands to avoid becoming individualized prey. They tend to flourish one year in the Monterey Bay, and disappear the next. No one knows for sure why this occurs. In the 1940s and 1950s, overfishing certainly played a role, but ocean currents, which transport nutrients and affect the production of larvae, may also be a factor.