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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Chrysaora melanaster is a jellyfish found in the Arctic.

DIVE DEEPER

Jellyfish and Comb Jellies

Jellyfish and comb jellies are gelatinous animals that drift through the ocean's water column around the world. They are...
A collage of the wildlife found in one cubic foot on the reef near Moorea, French Polynesia.

Finding Little Gems in the Sea

A collage of the wildlife found in one cubic foot on the reef near Moorea, French Polynesia. Credit: © David Liittschwager/National Geographic This month, our friends at National Geographic are featuring Smithsonian's own bio-scavenger,...
Ruth Meadows examines specimens as part of her Teacher at Sea experience.  NOAA Teacher at Sea Ruth Meadows sorts specimens aboard the NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow as part of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge Ecosystem (MAR-ECO) project.

NOAA Teacher at Sea Ruth Meadows

Ruth Meadows examines specimens as part of her Teacher at Sea experience. NOAA Teacher at Sea Ruth Meadows sorts specimens aboard the NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow as part of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge Ecosystem...
great white shark swims through the ocean

Great White Shark: One Species at a Time

In this episode of the Podcast of Life , students from Martha's Vineyard Regional High School in Massachusetts and La Salle Academy in Rhode Island question shark researcher Greg Skomal about a charismatic predator...

Foraminifera on the Seafloor

Dr. Karen Bice studies the foraminifera in ocean sediment to better understand climate change. More about scientists studying world climate change can be found in our Climate Change featured story .
A bonaire banded box jellyfish, Tamoya ohboya

Box Jellyfish: One Species at a Time

In this episode of the Podcast of Life , learn how three fiery, painful stings during an early morning swim in Hawaii changed the life of researcher Angel Yanagihara. Once the young biochemist had...

Welcome to the Moorea Biocode Project

Scientists journey to the isolated island of Moorea on a quest to catalog every life form big enough to pick up with tweezers—from mountaintop to seafloor. Get up close and personal with researchers in...

Encounters with Bioluminescent Creatures

Scientists describe the amazing bioluminescent creatures they encounter as they descend into the deep--siphonophores, ctenophores, and viperfish--in this Smithsonian/History Channel "Deep Ocean Explorers" video excerpt. If you like this video, watch the full 14-minute...

Oil and Water Don't Mix, Even After 40 Years

More than 40 years after the 1969 oil spill in Massachusetts’ Wild Harbor salt marsh, environmental chemist Dr. Chris Reddy from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution finds that the oil is still present. In this...
Coral reefs are the most diverse of all marine ecosystems.

Coral Reefs: One Species at a Time

Coral reefs are bustling cities of marine life, until rising ocean temperatures turn them into ghost towns. Can reefs spring back from devastating bleaching events? In this episode of the Podcast of Life ,...
A young Kemp's ridley sea turtle in recovery.

Kemp’s ridley sea turtle recovers from oil

A young Kemp's ridley sea turtle ( Lepidochelys kempii ) recovers at the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, after the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Turtles were cleaned and nursed back to health...
dinoflagellates

Dinoflagellates: One Species at a Time

Ari Daniel Shapiro is joined for this episode of The Podcast of Life by science contributor Josh Kurz, who tells the story of dinoflagellates through "music from the bottom of the food chain." There...
A tiny larval (baby) starfish.

The Invisible Loss: The Impacts of Oil You Do Not See

A tiny larval (baby) starfish. Credit: Dr. Allison J. Gong, UC Santa Cruz Since late April, the world has watched a devastating oil spill from a BP drilling rig spread throughout the Gulf of...
Tube worms called riftia occupy a deep-sea vent

Riftia Worms: One Species at a Time

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...

Lessons from the Panama Oil Spill

On April 27, 1986, an estimated 50,000 barrels of medium-weight crude oil drained from a ruptured storage tank at a refinery in Panama, polluting the coast and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute’s Galeta Marine...
school of bluefin tuna

Atlantic Bluefin Tuna: One Species at a Time

What is it like to be eyeball to eyeball with a fish the size of a Volkswagen? In this episode of the Podcast of Life , learn how a tuna fisherman and a biologist...
Cover of the Book Citizens of the Sea

Citizens of the Sea

Order a copy of the book, Citizens of the Sea . Credit: National Geographic The incredible variety of marine life—in numbers, body form, behavior, and more—is at the heart of Citizens of the Sea...
Mangroves abut blue ocean waters.

Mangroves: One Species at a Time

Follow researchers Candy Feller and Dennis Whigham from the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center as they scramble, climb, crawl, and creep through the tangled roots of a mangrove forest. In this episode of the Podcast...
Mangroves are being decimated by human development, like this shrimp farm in Belize.

Five Minutes for Mangroves

This shrimp farm in southern Belize is just one example of how mangroves worldwide are giving way to human development. In just the last decade, at least 35 percent of the world's mangroves have...

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