Model of a triton horn eating a crown-of-thorns starfish – on display in the new special exhibition at the Senckenberg Nature Museum in Frankfurt.

Coral reefs - endangered treasures of the oceans

8. June until 22. March 2018
Verlängert bis 31. December 2019

Coral reefs are the largest natural structures on our planet and their beauty is hard to beat. They are among the most species-rich ecosystems, but are under massive threat. The International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI) has therefore proclaimed 2018 the “International Year of the Reef”. The Senckenberg Nature Museum Frankfurt is taking part in the initiative and is opening the special exhibition “Coral Reefs – Endangered Treasures of the Oceans” today.

The exhibition invites visitors to immerse themselves in the world of coral reefs and learn more about the unique and complex ecology, the immense economic importance, the increasing threat to reefs and the current state of science with the help of original exhibits, models and films.

Although warm and cold-water reefs only cover around 0.15 percent of the ocean floor, they are vital for a third of all marine life. They serve as egg-laying grounds, retreats and feeding grounds for a large number of animal species and are regarded as nurseries for 25 percent of all deep-sea fish. Sea turtles also regularly head for the coral reefs to feed or to be freed of parasites by cleaning fish. In the new special exhibition at the Senckenberg Nature Museum Frankfurt, visitors can view around 50 original exhibits, 5 casts of fish and 13 models of reef inhabitants up close: from a real hawksbill turtle and a model of two blacktip reef sharks to alcohol specimens of a cleaner wrasse or a longnose surgeonfish.


Model of two blacktip reef sharks in the exhibition “Coral Reefs – Endangered Treasures of the Oceans” at the Senckenberg Nature Museum

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Staghorn coral (Acropora humilis)
Korallenriffe Ausstellungsraum
Exhibition room “Coral reefs – endangered treasures of the oceans” 

“Senckenberg has a long tradition in the field of marine research. For decades, our scientists have been studying the ecology of coral reefs – especially in the Red Sea,” explains Dr. Bernd Herkner, Head of the Museum Department at the Senckenberg Nature Museum. “Senckenberg scientists are researching the biological diversity of reefs in shallow water and in the deep sea worldwide. With Prof. Dr. André Freiwald and Dr. Friedhelm Krupp, our visitors will get to know two of our renowned scientists at an audio station in the special exhibition,” he continues.

With the exhibition, Dr. Bernd Herkner has taken up the “International Year of the Reef” (IYOR) to draw visitors’ attention to the importance and value of these habitats and to raise awareness of the issue of reef protection. It also supports the association Reef Check e.V., which is a co-initiator of the IYOR.

“With this exhibition, Senckenberg is an important partner in this project and is helping to raise social awareness of the threat to reefs,” says biologist Jenny Krutschinna from Reef Check e.V..

“We want to inspire our visitors for the unique beauty of the coral reefs and at the same time inform them how quickly the sensitive balance of these ecosystems is disturbed by human influence,” adds Stefanie Raddatz, curator of the exhibition. The consequences of human activity have led to a crisis on an unprecedented scale: More than half of all warm-water coral reefs are considered to be permanently disturbed, and around a third have already been irretrievably lost. Climate change is cited as the main cause of coral death, along with factors such as marine pollution and overfishing.

The special exhibition “Coral reefs – endangered treasures of the oceans” leads thematically to the planned permanent exhibition “Coral reef”, which is due to open in 2020 as part of the modular museum renovation at the Senckenberg Nature Museum Frankfurt. The taxidermists Hildegard Enting, Sylva Scheer and Anna Frenkel are working on the presentation of a reef habitat, which will show a tropical coral reef in all its diversity as a biodiversity hotspot. “How nice that some of our work for the large diorama can already be seen as forerunners in the current special exhibition,” says Hildegard Enting happily. The detailed model of a triton horn devouring a crown-of-thorns starfish has just been completed. Sylva Scheer has painstakingly sculpted the starfish, giving viewers an unusual look at the underside of this animal – the taxidermist has made and attached more than 2,500 little feet and numerous mouthparts. Other forerunners, which will also be on display in the new “Coral Reef” museum room from 2020, are the prepared hawksbill turtle and an enlarged model of a pygmy seahorse.


With the kind support of KFW Entwicklungsbank

Logo KFW

The exhibition is part of the International Year of the Reef project

Logo IYORgroß