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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Sharks

There are more than 500 species of sharks swimming in the world’s ocean. Yet when most people think of these cartilaginous...
Satellite view of the Gulf Coast oil spill off of Louisiana, April 29, 2010.

State of Emergency in the Gulf

The explosion of Deepwater Horizon, an oil-drilling platform roughly 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana, is quickly growing into an environmental disaster that will leave its mark on coastal communities, fisheries, wildlife, and...
Students share a microscope to get a closer look at plankton samples from the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.

A Current Event in the Classroom: Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

Students share a microscope to get a closer look at plankton samples from the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. Credit: Seaberry Nachbar, NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries Sometimes, a tragic event can become a powerful teaching...
Venomous Box Jelly from South Carolina

Pinning Down the Jellyfish

Credit: Bastian Bentlage Depending on whom you talk to, jellyfish are either fascinating, a nuisance, a toxic menace, or some combination of the above. Jellyfish plop into the media spotlight when their presence causes...
Coral Spawning by Moonlight

A Tale of Sex and Stress in the Ocean

A coral has just spawned. Each of the hundreds of polyps releases a small pink bundle of sperm and eggs. Credit: Raphael Williams Welcome to Citizens of the Sea , a new blog series...
Hawaiian Monk Seal

Backbone of Biodiversity at Risk

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature ( IUCN ) maintains the Red List of Threatened Species , an inventory of the global conservation status of plants and animals. In a 2010 study...
Horseshoe Crab in Stage Harbor, Massachusetts

This Flu Season, Thank a Horseshoe Crab

A small horseshoe crab rests on seaweed in Stage Harbor, Massachusetts. Credit: © Luke Robinson (Creative Commons via Flickr) Fever. Aching muscles. Coughing. Sniffling. It’s flu season . Have you had your shot? If...

Hydrothermal Vent Creatures

Travel to a world of perpetual night--the deep ocean hydrothermal vents near the Galapagos Rift where life thrives around superheated water spewing from deep inside the Earth. Discovered only in 1977, hydrothermal vents are...
An underwater photo of coral recovering from a bleaching event.

A Pleasant Surprise: The Recovery of Bleached Panamanian Corals

These corals are still in recovery after a mass bleaching in Panama, in the summer of 2010. You can see some bleaching on the tops, but the sides are looking good. Credit: Amanda Feuerstein...
A screenshot of some of Smithsonian's marine story windows in Google Earth

What Lives in the Gulf of Mexico? Exploring Marine Collections on Google Earth

When he was 10 years old, Stephen Cairns lived in Cuba where he kept a collection of butterflies and sea shells. When his family moved to Louisiana, he could bring only one of the...
Common cuttlefish

So You Think You're Smarter Than a Cephalopod?

Like other cephalopods, the common cuttlefish ( Sepia officials Linnaeus, 1758) possesses serious brain power. Credit: Hans Hillewaert, WoRMS for SMEBD The blanket octopus can rip a poisonous tentacle from a Portuguese man-o-war and...
An adult and juvenile killer whale frolic in the water.

Menopausal Moms: A Mammal Mystery

Killer whales ( Orcinus orca ) have something in common with humans: early menopause. Credit: Robert L. Pitman, NOAA Fisheries, USA In honor of Mother's Day, the Citizens of the Sea blog salutes ocean-going...
A zoomed-in image of the crown-of-thorns sea star.

A Plague of Sea Stars

Scientists have been studying why populations of crown-of-thorns sea stars ( Acanthaster planci ) have mushroomed in recent decades. Coral reefs can suffer when the sea star's numbers explode; the echinoderm has a healthy...

The Dumbo Octopus: An Underwater Dance

This short video takes you two hundred miles off the coast of Oregon and some 6,600 feet below the water's surface to observe the Dumbo octopus ( Grimpoteuthis bathynectes ). Little is known about...
Sophi Bromenshenkel poses with a hammerhead shark snow sculpture.

Saving Sharks and Dolphins, Near and Far

Shark-lover and Minnesota native Sophi Bromenshenkel poses with her hammerhead snow sculpture. The eight-year-old is one of Oceana's 2011 Ocean Heroes . Credit: Courtesy of Neil Bromenshenkel Sophi Bromenshenkel is an unlikely shark -lover...
Photo of the head of a leafy seadragon

Devoted Dads: From Seahorses to Sea Spiders

Male leafy seadragons ( Phycodurus eques ) are among the ocean's more " devoted dads ." They carry the developing eggs for about a month, until they hatch. Credit: David Gray, FishWise Professional If...

Efforts to Protect the Critically Endangered Monk Seal

Monk seals -- the only completely tropical species of seal in the world -- are in trouble. Centuries of human exploitation and habitat destruction have caused the remaining populations of Mediterranean monk seals (...
An underwater photo of a school of jacks and a scuba diver

Ocean Views Award Winners, 2011

Thanks to a passionate group of fearless ocean photographers, you can stare-down a yellow-mouth moray eel, a sperm whale, and a harlequin shrimp. These are just three of the subjects in the 2011 Nature's...

The Oil Spill, Two Years Later

Mark Dodd, a wildlife biologist from Georgia's Department of Natural Resources, surveying oiled sargassum seaweed in the Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. Credit: Georgia Department of Natural Resources...

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