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

Japanese scientists videotaped this female giant squid, alive, at the water's surface

DIVE DEEPER

Giant Squid

Giant squid live up to their name: the largest giant squid ever recorded by scientists was almost 43 feet (13 meters) long,...

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

Photo Credit: NOAA A healthy coral reef has an abundance of small sharks that help keep the ecosystem in balance. But once people move into the area, they disappear —from fishing, loss of food...
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 swimming with her calf.

Scientists Use Bioacoustics to Protect Marine Mammals

John Hildebrand discusses his research at the Scripps Whale Acoustic Lab on the FLIP platform. Marine mammals such as whales, dolphins, and seals have an amazing ability to hold their breaths—sometimes for up to...
Polar bears are threatened by a lack of sea ice.

Climate Change at the Poles

Polar bears are threatened by the loss of sea ice in the Arctic. Credit: K. Elliott, NOAA, Hidden Ocean 2005 At the ends of the Earth, life thrives despite extreme conditions. In the Arctic...
Master carver Douglas Chilton rides in the Raven Spirit canoe at its ceremonial launch.

The Sant Ocean Hall: Salmon Shape a Way of Life

You may think of salmon as a good choice for a weekday dinner, or enjoy it smoked and sliced on a bagel. But that salmon on your plate has a long and illustrious history...
Polar bears are threatened by a lack of sea ice.

The Sant Ocean Hall: Life at the Poles Exhibit

Human activity is increasing in the Arctic marine environment due to climate change. To help the most vulnerable areas, the Global Marine Program of IUCN, along with partners, is convening a series of workshops...
10 grains of star shaped sand collected from southern Japan

The Sant Ocean Hall: Life in the Sand Exhibit

Soft sand, gentle waves, colorful beach glass, seaweed, and scattered shells. It may be a relaxing place to sit with family and friends, sinking your feet into the warm sand. Does this come to...
A large ship flushes water from its ballast tanks while at sea

5 Invasive Species You Should Know

A ship flushes and refills its ballast task in mid-ocean to prevent marine organisms from moving from one port to another. Credit: Smithsonian Environmental Research Center Regardless of what continent you live on, the...

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