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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A squat lobster and blackbelly rosefish find shelter on a Lophelia pertusa coral reef off the southeastern United States.

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Deep-sea Corals

It may be the last place you’d expect to find corals—up to 6,000 m (20,000 ft) below the ocean’s surface, where the water is...
Smithsonian Scientists Dig a Trench Around a squalodontid Skull

Expedition to Excavate a Fossil Whale

The first thing the researchers did when they arrived on site was outline the general excavation area and take careful measurements of exposed fossils. Next, they applied acrylic glue to any exposed bone to...
Smithsonian scientists race the tide the excavate an ancient whale fossil entombed in rock

Fossil Whale Found, Excavated, Jacketed, and Returned to STRI!

A time-lapse video of the excavation of an extinct toothed whale on a Panamanian beach. Jorge and I packed up the night we arrived in Panama with Aaron O'Dea and his team from STRI...
A polar bear and her cub on the ice

Polar Bears: One Species at a Time

The Encyclopedia of Life brings us another installment of the podcast, One Species at a Time . In this podcast, host Ari Daniel Shapiro relates two close calls with polar bears. Listen as Heather...

Deep Reef Observation Project (DROP) Video

Dr. Carole Baldwin , a research zoologist and fish expert with the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, gives viewers an inside-look at the Deep Reef Observation Project (DROP). She and her colleagues are...
A submersible explores the deep reefs off of Curacao in the Caribbean.

Summer in a Sub: DROP Down to Discovery

Dr. Carole Baldwin , a research zoologist and fish expert with the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, gives viewers an inside-look at the Deep Reef Observation Project (DROP). You never know where following...
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

Dr. Amy Baco-Taylor dives to deep-sea environments to study corals and the invertebrates that live on them. Two events made me passionate about deep-sea corals . One was my first submarine dive in a...

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