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.

LATEST POSTS

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...

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...

Aleutian Islands Deep-Sea Corals

In this brief video clip from NOAA, catch a glimpse of the startling beauty and diversity of life found among deep-sea corals near the Aleutian Islands in Alaska. Explore more in the multimedia feature...

Submersible Collects Deep-Sea Corals

Come along as scientist Dr. Brendan Roark narrates a submersible dive to collect and study deep-sea corals. Roark studies deep-sea corals to understand the history of the ocean and past ocean climates. Learn more...
Nine small invertebrates held on two fingers.

On Biodiversity: Understanding its Meaning and Importance

These mollusks and echinoderms are a teeny-tiny sample of the ocean's biodiversity. The Census of Marine Life estimates that there are at least one million species of plants and animals in the sea. Most...

Video of the Palauan primitive cave eel (Protanguilla palau)

A video of the Palauan primitive cave eel ( Protanguilla palau ) swimming in the Pacific off the Republic of Palau . Jiro Sakaue, a Japanese research diver, first discovered the new genus and...
A photo of a swimming Protanguilla palau, the newly discovered genus and species of eel

Scientists Call New Eel Species A Living Fossil

A video of the Palauan primitive cave eel ( Protanguilla palau ) swimming in the Pacific off the Republic of Palau. A Japanese research diver first discovered the new genus and species in a...
Arctic cod have a special protein that warms their blood.

Arctic Lesson Plans from NOAA

Explore the Arctic in the "Under Arctic Ice" photo essay, co-developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Office of Ocean Exploration and Research and the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. This...
Photograph of the underside of a gelatinous octopus with a bright yellow bioluminescent ring around her mouth.

Bioluminescent Animals Photo Gallery

Bioluminescence is one of the more captivating adaptations that have evolved in marine animals. It's the ability of organisms to create and emit light. Dive underwater and you may witness lightshows of red, green,...
A photo of a 2011 installation by artist Shih Chieh Huang, featuring his illuminated creations made from everyday objects.

When Art Meets Science: Exhibition Inspired by Bioluminescence

Artist Shih Chieh Huang creates his work using plastic bags, household objects, computer cooling fans, LED lights, and other assorted materials. This photo is of a 2011 installation at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum...
A photo of an oyster cage, out of the water, covered in sea squirts.

Alaska Vulnerable to Invasive Species from Warmer Waters

Invasive species can have a range of environmental and economic impacts. In this photo, sea squirts foul an oyster cage. Scientists at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center's Marine Invasions Lab study the movement and...
The dwarf lantern shark sits in a human hand.

5 Reasons to Revere, Not Fear, the Shark

Over the years, sharks have gotten a bad rap as bloodthirsty man-eaters. We challenge you to take a second look at these magnificent creatures and to fight fear with facts. Here are five reasons...
A graph of arctic ice coverage from 2011, showing data through September 7, 2011.

Arctic Sea Ice: A New Low?

This graph of the Arctic sea ice coverage shows how close the year 2011 is to reaching a record-low. The graph contains data through September 7, 2011. The National Snow and Ice Data Center...
Offshore Peru, during the Eocene (~56-34 million years ago), showing two archaeocetes (ancient whales): Ocucajea picklingi and Supayacetus muizon.

New Archaeocetes from Peru Are the Oldest Fossil Whales from South America

Offshore Peru, during the Eocene (~56-34 million years ago), showing two archaeocetes (ancient whales): Ocucajea picklingi (above) and Supayacetus muizoni (below). Credit: Carl Buell, http://carlbuell.com The evolution of whales represents one of the great...
Phoenix rises out of the waters east of Cape Cod, MA, in April 2003.

Scientists Use Bioacoustics to Protect Marine Mammals

Marine mammals such as whales, dolphins, and seals have an amazing ability to hold their breaths—sometimes for up to two hours—while they dive deep to search for food and evade predators. In the cold,...

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