Ocean Life & Ecosystems

From the tiny to the titanic, from the familiar to the undiscovered, the ocean offers a stunning diversity of marine life and nearly every kind of habitat imaginable. Dive in and explore them here.

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This recently discovered hairy crab species (Kiwa hirsuta) has no eyes.

DIVE DEEPER

The Census of Marine Life

Did you know that over 17,000 species thrive in the deep sea where no light penetrates the ocean waves? Or that an old...
A right whale breaches, lifting its huge body out of the water.

North Atlantic Right Whale

Stretching up to 16.8 meters (55 feet) long and weighing up to 62 tons (70 tons), the North Atlantic right whale is one of the world’s largest animals—and one of the most endangered whales...
Phoenix swimming with her calf.

Baleen: From Whales to People

For being so big, right whales eat very small food, which they catch using baleen. Baleen is the series of fringed plates hanging in right whales' mouths that are used to strain seawater for...
This new species of lobster (Dinochelus ausubeli) is blind and has bizarre claws. It was discovered about 300 meters (984 feet) deep in the Philippine Sea by a Census of Marine Life expedition.

Deep Ocean Diversity Slideshow

Deep sea animals have to live in a very cold, dark, and high-pressure environment where they can't see a thing! To survive there, they've evolved some very strange adapations. Some make their own light,...

Deep Ocean Explorers

The submersible Alvin carries scientists to the deep ocean, where they encounter amazing creatures and views of deep ocean life. Explore more in the Deep Ocean Exploration section .

Sea Creatures from the Deep: A Video by National Geographic and the Census of Marine Life

The Census of Marine Life - a ten-year effort by scientists from around the world to answer the age-old question, “What lives in the sea?” It was an international effort to asses the diversity,...
Polar bear siblings in the Churchill Wildlife Management Area near Hudson Bay spar playfully during migration.

Help us pick the next OP stars

The race is on. We need to choose the next species and ecosystem to feature on the Ocean Portal, and we’re putting it to a vote. Does the charismatic (and threatened) polar bear deserve...
A bluefin trevally swims in Hawaii’s Maro Coral Reef, part of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.

Two Views of Coral Reefs: Thriving and Threatened

Coral reefs are beautiful, vibrant ecosystems that house roughly one quarter of all marine species and provide billions of dollars in products and services to humans each year. But they are also vulnerable to...
A diver cares for the reef by cleaning up discarded fishing gear and garbage.

Reef Rescue: Protect Coral Reefs with Your Actions

A diver cares for the reef by cleaning up discarded fishing gear and garbage. Credit: Amos Nachoum 2005/Marine Photobank Coral reefs are beautiful, vibrant ecosystems that house roughly one quarter of all marine species...
A frame-by-frame view of a Great White Shark breach.

Photo Sequence of Great White Shark Hunting

Great white sharks are athletic hunters, leaping completely out of the water as they attack prey from below. They have six highly refined senses : smell, hearing, touch, taste, sight, and electromagnetism. These senses,...
Photograph of the model of a Giant Megatooth Shark, taken from the front..

Shark Ancestors

Long before great white sharks appeared, much larger ancestors roamed the ocean. This giant ancient shark -- the Giant Megatooth ( Carcharodon megalodon ) -- was probably big enough to eat a whale.
X-ray image of a winghead shark

X-Rays of Fish Reveal Diversity

Scientists in the Division of Fishes at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History use X-ray imaging to study the complex bone structure and diversity of fish. This image gallery showcases X-ray images of...

Rethink the Shark

Sharks have a long and impressive lineage. Ancient sharks were cruising the ocean 400 million year ago- long before dinosaurs roamed on land. Relatives of the great white like the giant megatooth evolved more...

100,000,000 to 000,000,001: Rethink the Shark

Who should fear whom? Less than ten humans are killed by shark attacks. Yet millions of sharks are killed each year by humans. More about the great white shark can be found in our...

Are Sharks Scary?

What is scarier: sharks or extinction? This video from Save Our Seas puts whether we should fear sharks or they should fear us into perspective . Humans have killed killed off 95% of some...
North Atlantic right whale

North Atlantic Right Whale: One Species at a Time

Hear how research unfolds at sea in a tiny Zodiac surrounded by creatures that measure longer than a city bus. Playing female whale calls into the water, researcher Susan Parks suddenly finds herself the...

Protecting Sharks: How Nets Hurt

Tom Peschak, a photojournalist with the Save Our Seas Foundation, describes the devastating effects shark nets have on ocean life along the South African coastline. The nets were installed to protect swimmers, but the...
sea cucumber

Sea Cucumber: One Species at a Time

What reef animal comes in a rainbow of crazy colors, can throw out its stomach to immobilize predators, then creep away and regrow a brand-new stomach? It’s the sea cucumber, prized as a gastronomic...
Great White Sharks breach to hunt -- with split-second timing they grab their prey in one swift snatch. Follow the whole breaching action in this slideshow.

Great White Shark

Sharks are much older than dinosaurs. Their ancestry dates back more than 400 million years, and they are one of evolution’s greatest success stories. These animals are uniquely adapted to their ocean environment with...

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