Invertebrates

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The ocean is home to a phenomenal diversity of marine organisms. They have evolved to inhabit warm waters near the equator and the icy waters of the Earth’s poles. Marine life takes advantage of...
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This summer, many of you have likely enjoyed feasting on crabs, be they blue,...
Zombie worms don’t crave brains: instead they seek bones. The 1 to 3 inch (2 to...
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Marine parasites may be small in size, but they can be present in very high...

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Ultraviolet light illuminates the growth rings in a cross-section of a 44-year-old deep-sea coral ( Primnoa resedaeformis ) collected off the coast of Newfoundland at about 1,300 feet (400 meters). Similar to tree trunks, cross-...
A “pink meanie” jellyfish ( Drymonema larsoni )—a species found in the Gulf...
This brilliant red octopus ( Benthoctopus sp. ) was photographed at more...

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Coral reefs are the most diverse of all marine ecosystems. They teem with life, with perhaps one quarter of all ocean...
Giant squid live up to their name: the largest giant squid ever recorded by scientists was almost 43 feet (13 meters) long, and may have weighed nearly a ton. You’d think such a huge animal would be...
A sea star , Hymenaster pellucidus , brought up from a benthic ROV dive. View the “Under Arctic Ice” photo essay to learn more.
This nudibranch has a few tricks up its sleeve: it steals jellyfish tentacles to use as weapons again its own enemies. How does it do this? Many fleshy, tentacle-like growths, called cerata (singular...
White abalones are slow-moving, algae-eating mollusks. Rapid overharvesting since the 1970s has resulted in white abalones becoming the first marine invertebrate listed as endangered on the...
Amidst the bright blue tufts and the dark blue fringes of the beautiful Risbecia tryoni , you might not even notice the red emperor shrimp. The two animals are native to the Indo-Pacific region, and...
From the giant squid to microscopic squid babies, squids are beautiful and fascinating. As cephalopods, the same family as octopuses and cuttlefish, they have no bones, and swim head-first through...
An adult giant squid struggles for survival in an encounter with a sperm whale - its only known predator. The whale will probably overpower and eat the squid. More about the giant squid can be found...
In this episode of the Podcast of Life , host Ari Daniel Shapiro dives deep to discover a white worm as tall as your refrigerator that breathes through bright red feathery "lips." This isn’t a...
Smithsonian Marine Science Network Postdoctoral Fellow, Seabird McKeon, returns from the Smithsonian field site in Belize. Together with Dan Barshis of Stanford University, Seabird reports on the...
When this tusk shell was brought up from the deep reef, it was a surprise when a hermit crab poked out! Notice the hermit crab's large claw that it can use to tightly cover the shell opening when it...
The dumbo octopus ( Grimpoteuthis ) is a deep sea animal that lives on the ocean floor at extreme depths of 9,800 to 13,000 feet. They are small animals, around 8 inches tall, and have a pair of fins...
The ocean is home to many moms of all shapes and sizes: from charismatic polar bears and dolphins to small fishes and shrimps and more. Learn about some of the diverse parenting habits of marine moms...
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...
Giant clams are one of the many wonders of coral reefs. They can grow up to five feet wide, weigh over 400 pounds, and live for 100 years! They power all that bulk by filter feeding microbes and...
Giant squid have the largest eye in the animal kingdom. At up to 10 inches in diameter, people often describe it as the size of a dinner plate -- or, in other words, as big as a human head. Here,...
This forest of Christmas tree worms is a group of polychaete worms that live on tropical coral reefs. See more celebratory ocean creatures in our slideshow!
Glowing photophores are visible on this midwater squid ( Abralia veranyi ) viewed from below at low light levels. We think of light as a way to see in the dark. But many species use it to help them...
Two brown and purple nudibranchs ( Risbecia tryoni ), crawling in tandem on a surface encrusted with pink-colored coralline algae. These "sea slugs" live in the tropical Western Pacific Ocean. You...
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