The Mediterranea Sea


Livorno Aquarium offers a variety of areas. The visit -  suitable for both adults and children - starts with a series of tanks showing various Mediterranean environments.

Perfectly reconstructed, these environments accompany visitors in discovering the creatures that inhabit our seas.

History of the Mediterranean Sea

With an area of about 2.500.000 square km, the Mediterranean Sea occupies roughly 1% of the Earth’s water surface.

The geological formation of the Mediterranean Sea has extremely ancient origins and is the result of a particularly complex evolution. At the end of the Miocene (6–7 million years ago), an important episode in the geological history of the Mediterranean Sea occurred: the progressive advancement of the African continent towards the European landmass closed the Strait of Gibraltar, which was the connection to the Atlantic Ocean; in this way the Mediterranean Sea became in a very short time tan enormous saltwater lake.

The closure of the link with the Atlantic Ocean caused what we now call the “Messinian Salinity Crisis”, during which the Mediterranean  Sea suffered a severe hydrological deficit, with the consequent deposit of vast quantity of minerals, almost as if it were an enormous saltpan.

The crisis lasted for less than 1 million years, but this was long enough to create enormous deposits of “evaporates” with great thickness, that can still be found today beneath the most recent sediment deposits. The Mediterranean Sea has now an average depth of 1.370 metres, reaching its deepest point at 5.120 metres to the south of Greece.

The exchange of water through the Strait of Gibraltar, just 13 km wide and about 300 metres deep, is very slow. Surface waters are exchanged every 80–90 years, and it is estimated that the sea’s entire volume is renewed over a period of about 7.500 years.

Biodiversity in the Mediterranean Sea

Thanks to its rich biodiversity of life-forms, the Mediterranean Sea - one of the main eco-regions of the Earth - is one of its most important ecosystems of the World.

The Mediterranean’s natural environment is a combination of homogeneous geomorphologic and climatic factors, and its biological diversity is due principally to the adaptation of many species to the hot, dry summers and mild winters of our climate. An important contribution to the sea’s richness of biodiversity also comes from the high primary productivity caused by movements of cold water masses in the Mediterranean basin:

in this area the wind and the currents redistribute nutritional substances in the water column, making them available for planktonic organisms, that are the first link in the marine food chain.

Antropic effect on he Mediterranean coasts, characterized by the exponential increase of population and production activities over the last century, has led to a progressive decrease in biodiversity, a phenomenon amplified by the fact that the Mediterranean is a semi-enclosed sea with a very slow exchange of its waters.


The main risks that threaten the survival of the species habitats and entire ecosystems of our natural heritage are the result of human activities:

the urbanization, the intensive use of fertilizers with high contents of nitrogen and phosphorous, with the consequent eutrophication of seawaters, the pollution caused by waste waters containing heavy metals and chlorinated organic compounds, the increasing expansion of tourism, the hydrocarbon losses, the introduction of extraneous species and the expansion of the fisheries industry, characterized by severe overfishing and the lack of nvironmental-friendly fishing methods application.

The Diacinto Cestoni Room

The visit begins with the Diacinto Cestoni Room, a real journey to discover the biodiversity of the Mediterranean Sea, its colours and its various forms of life that can be admired with the 2 groups of themed thanks: "The small coastal habitants of the Mediterranean Sea" and "The Backdrops of the Mediterranean Sea" . At the end of the room also, a single large tub dedicated the topic of research. Acquario di Livorno collaborates today with the Higher Institute for Environmental Research (I.S.P.R.A.) and the Interuniversity Center of Marine Biology (C.I.B.M.) in a project to monitor the quality of marine water using the curls Of the Paracentrotus lividus species. In this area it is possible to read the panels where to find the informations about the Information Point of Tuscany Observatory for Biodiversity

The small coastal habitants of the Mediterranean Sea 
A "collection" of tanks where some of the guests of the various ecological niches of the coast are exposed, but also organisms that are difficult to see because they are used to great depths. In addition to the common lobster (Palinurus elephas), it is possible to see up close in these tanks the Lysmata shrimp, of an intense red and the fearsome carnivorous stelae, such as the great Martasteria Star (Marthasterias glacialis) or the voracious Thorny Stars (Coscinasteria tenuispina). 

The backdrops of the Mediterranea Sea
In this section of tanks, visitors will be able to see some of the most singular specimens that populate the seabed: from the pencil urchins (Stylocidaris affinis) to the Neptune's trumpet (Charonia lampas), the cardinal fishes (Apogon imberbis) and the sea cicada o magnosa (Scyllarides latus)

The research tank
Thanks to the collaboration with the Istituto Superiore per la ricerca (I.S.P.R.A.) and the Interuniversity Centre for Marine Biology (C.I.B.M.), Acquario di livorno dedicates a tank to the project to monitoring the quality of marine waters using the curls of the Paracentrotus lividus species. Either C.I.B.M and Livorno section of I.S.P.R.A. is engaged in the study of the polluting effects, released in the sea and that can damage the marine ecosystem.

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