As young children we are taught not to "touch anything" while at stores or restaurants or museums, but the latest exhibit at the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk is breaking that rule big time.
The aquarium's "Jiggle A Jelly" exhibit lets visitors safely touch live moon jellyfish, one of the most common species in Long Island Sound and the Atlantic Ocean.
The special hands-on exhibit of jellies will be open near the aquarium's jellyfish culture lab on weekends and holidays through April 20; and also daily during school vacation weeks Feb. 17 to 21 and April 14 to 18.
"We've had jelly exhibits before, but not a touch jelly exhibit," said Judith Bacal, the aquarium's exhibits director. "One of our goals is to bring in as much hands-on experience as possible. And we know people like to touch animals; it's a way to connect people more to what the animals themselves are as opposed to looking at them behind glass."
But will visitors get stung touching the jellys?
"It's a perfect question," said Bacal. "Most jellys have a relatively mild sting to them, if any at all. There are few of them that do sting... but the moon jelly, which is the species we're having in this tank, generally have very, very mild stingers."
Bacal explains that the jelly's stingers are on the underside of the body, and they are asking people to touch the top of the jellyfish, which is called the "bell."
"There's a very, very, very, very tiny chance that somebody would actually get stung," said Bacal. "And by touching [the jellyfish] on the top and not on the underside is completely eliminating the possibility of someone getting stung."
The exhibit also explains the life cycle of jellyfish and how the aquarium raises them.
Not a jellyfish fan? The aquarium also has another touch tank filled with crabs, sea stars and other sea life that are smaller.
"People love touch tanks," said Bacal. "I think the uniqueness of this one is that it's jellys."
The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk is at 10 N. Water St. Hours are daily, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aquarium admission is $19.95 adults; $12.95 for ages 3 through 12; and $17.95 for ages 13 through 17 and age 65 and older. Information: maritimeaquarium.org and 203-852-0700.