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...
Orange roughy and various marine species, bycatch, on the deck of a research trawler

Rough Going for Orange Roughy

Orange roughy and bycatch on the deck of a research trawler off the east coast of Tasmania. Credit: Stephen McGowan, Australian Maritime College, 2006/Marine Photobank In the dark, cold waters 600 meters (nearly 2000...
Boats docked in a Chesapeake Bay harbor

Rapa Whelks: Invaders of the Chesapeake Bay

Shellfish from the Chesapeake Bay are prized by seafood lovers. But the Bay's ecosystem and shellfish are threatened by human disturbances, including the introduction of non-native species. Credit: Mary Hollinger/NOAA During the summer of...
A map of NOAA's 13 marine protected areas

The Marine Sanctuary: A Safe Harbor for Ocean Life

The National Marine Sanctuary system is a network of 13 marine protected areas managed by NOAA, in addition to the Papahānaumokuākea (Northwest Hawaiian Islands) Marine National Monument. Credit: NOAA, Office of National Marine Sanctuaries...
An algal bloom, also known as a red tide, has converted the ocean's surf to a red color

Scientists Work to Predict and Prevent Algae Blooms

Harmful algal blooms are dangerous, producing toxins that can kill marine organisms, taint shellfish, cause skin irritations, and even foul the air Credit: Flickr User AJC1 Algae, like all organisms, normally grow in balance...
An underwater photo of Southern Bluefin Tuna swimming above a fish farm net.

Tunas and Marlins Officially Classified as Threatened

The Southern Bluefin Tuna ( Thunnus maccoyii ) is listed as "critically endangered" on the IUCN's Red List of Threatened Species . If its population continues to decline, the species faces the possibility of...
A photo of a sea toad specimen.

A Sub and a Sea Toad

Researchers with the Smithsonian's Deep Reef Observation Project (DROP) collected this sea toad, Chaunax pictus , off the coast of Honduras in 2011. The team is trying to collect sea toads from around the...
Elysia chlorotica, the photosynthesizing sea slug.

Sea Slugs: One Species at a Time

Come one, come all! See the amazing, the astonishing, half-animal, half-plant! Journey to Tampa Bay, Florida, where scientist Skip Pierce and one of his students first made a remarkable discovery twenty years ago. Meet...
Can painted wooden fish.

Chinook Salmon: One Species at a Time

Can painted wooden fish on a schoolyard fence change human behavior and help clean up the ocean for the real salmon? Stream of Dreams in British Columbia thinks so, and a lot of wooden...
Two scientists peer out into the ocean from inside the Curasub, a 5-person submersible

Diving for Crabs in the Deep Sea

In this video, Smithsonian research zoologist Dr. Martha Nizinski takes viewers with her as she searches for crustaceans in the deep sea . This work is part of the Deep Reefs Observation Project (DROP),...

Blue Water Diving with WHOI

"Inside the Open Ocean: Blue Water Diving" produced by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) , describes a specialized diving technique that lets biologists study the ocean's most fragile beings--soft, transparent animals such as jellyfish...

Corals in the Juan de Fuca Canyon and the Davidson Seamount

Discover some amazing corals in this footage that shows and identifies a range of deep-sea coral species from the Juan de Fuca Canyon off the Olympic coast and the Davidson Seamount, an underwater volcano...
J. Murray Roberts studies and maps the cold-water corals known as Lophelia in the North Atlantic.

Exploring the Blue Planet with J. Murray Roberts

J. Murray Roberts studies and maps the cold-water corals known as Lophelia in the North Atlantic, where the bases of some coral mounds are 2.6 million years old. Credit: Sebastian Hennige Imagine you’re an...
Amy Baco-Taylor

Amy Baco-Taylor: Passionate about Deep-Sea Corals

Coral scientist Dr. Amy Baco-Taylor observed corals like these on her first submarine dive to a deep-sea coral bed off the coast of Hawaii. Credit: Photos by A. Baco, T. Kerby and M. Kremer,...

Coral Scientist Brendan Roark: On an Urgent Mission

Dr. Brendan Roark discusses different methods of sampling deep-sea corals with undergraduate students at Texas A&M University. Credit: James LaCombe Deep-sea coral beds are true biodiversity hotspots. It’s urgent that we study these extreme...

Martha Nizinski: Hooked on Deep-Sea Corals

Scientist Martha Nizinski examines a sample of the deep-sea coral Lophelia pertusa , collected 600-m (1,969-ft) deep off the coast of the southeastern United States. Credit: A. Howard Nine years ago I was invited...

Peter Auster: The Gee Whiz Factor

Auster gets ready to study fish predators at Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary off the coast of Georgia. Credit: Courtesy Greg McFall, NOAA I still haven’t gotten beyond the ‘gee whiz’ factor of studying...

Trash on the Beach and in the Ocean

While conducting field work in Curaçao in 2011, Smithsonian researchers encountered trash along remote beaches and deep in the water column. This video gives a brief glimpse of some of the marine debris they...
John Paxton, a scientist who studies marine life, looks into a microscope

Examine the Clues

Ichthyologist John R. Paxton of the Australian Museum identifies freshly caught lanternfishes. Paxton was on the team that solved the whalefish mystery. Credit: R. Cornejo In 2003, a team of Japanese scientists analyzed the...

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