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The Ocean Blog

A large white coral (Corallium sp.) grows on the Balanus Seamount, part of the New England Seamount chain. Hanging on to the coral are stalkless crinoids and orange brittlestars (Opiacantha sp.) To...
A diversity of deep-sea corals—including primnoid coral ( Narella sp.), black coral ( Trissopathes pseudtristicha ), and feather stars ( Florometra serratissima )—flourish 2,669 m (8,757 ft) deep on...
A sea star , Hymenaster pellucidus , brought up from a benthic ROV dive. View the “Under Arctic Ice” photo essay to learn more.
Since summer 2013, starfish along both coasts of the United States have been dying in large numbers—and not gracefully. As their tissues collapse, the starfish (also called sea stars) start to look...
An orange brisingid starfish sits on a large reef of Lophelia pertusa, cold-water corals in the Gulf of Mexico, at 450 m depth as a school of fish swims above. They have many arms—up to 20!—covered...
A huge colony of brittlestars (likely Ophiacantha rosea ) covers the peak of a seamount in the deep ocean. What’s the attraction? Food! Their arms reach out for tiny food particles carried by the...
Colorful corals and brittlestars inhabit the Manning Seamount in the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of New England. Here you can see golden-colored coral (Enallopsamia rostrata), pinkish-brown coral (...
Thousands of seamounts—most of them undersea volcanoes—tower above the muddy seafloor. They provide something hard to come by in the deep ocean: a solid surface to cling to. Corals, sponges, and...
Sea stars are important members of marine ecosystems, especially in the tropics. We may think of tropical coral reefs as being home mainly to fish and corals, but in fact these habitats are home to a...
The Smithsonian's Department of Invertebrate Zoology has a collection of over 57,000 specimens from over 5,700 sites in the Gulf of Mexico, which are now catalogued on Google Earth . Below is a tiny...
Fitting nine of anything on two fingers is impressive. These mollusks and echinoderms are a teeny-tiny sample of the ocean's biodiversity. The Census of Marine Life estimates that there are at least...
Census of Marine Life researchers discovered this unusual transparent sea cucumber ( Enypniastes sp.) in the Gulf of Mexico at 2,750 meters depth. It creeps forward on its tentacles pretty slowly, at...
Crinoids (echinoderms related to sea stars and sea urchins) dominate the Paleozoic shallow water habitat in this illustration. They evolved a variety of stalk heights, which enabled them to capture...
These brittlestars ( Ophiothela mirabilis ) are not where they belong. These animals, usually found in the Pacific Ocean, were first spotted in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Brazil in 2000. And...
It’s an honor to have something or someone named after you. Dr. David Pawson , Senior Research Scientist and Curator of Echinoderms at NMNH, has several genera and species, living and fossil, named...
Shown here are several deep-sea coral species: From left to right is an unidentified purple octocoral, a small gold acanthorgorgiid octocoral, and a large colony of pink Corallium secundum . Basket...
A crown-of-thorns starfish ( Acanthaster planci ) on a reef in the Marianas Islands. An “outbreak” of these coral-eating starfish can decimate a reef, and they have done great damage on Australia's...
A bright orange sea star ( Novodinia antillensis ) clings to a large white soft coral ( Paragorgia sp.). This photo was taken on the Manning Seamount at a depth of 1,350 meters (4,429 feet) by the...
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