Smithsonian Institution

The Ocean is important to all life, including yours. Join us. Welcome to the Ocean Portal – a unique, interactive online experience that inspires awareness, understanding, and stewardship of the world’s Ocean, developed by the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History and more than 20 collaborating organizations. You are among the first wave of visitors to the Portal, an experience which we hope will empower you to shape and share your personal Ocean experiences, knowledge, and perspectives. The input you provide through feedback modules and comment boxes will help us to shape future Ocean Portal content and functionality. Like the Ocean, which is made of millions of marine species, your comments, questions, and clicks will help to bring the Portal closer to the vastness and variety of the Ocean itself.

Help us pick the next OP stars

The race is on. We need to choose the next species and ecosystem to feature on the Ocean Portal, and we’re putting it to a vote. Does the charismatic (and threatened) polar bear deserve the spot or should the humble (and bizarre) sea cucumber finally be thrust into the limelight? Want to slosh with us through the salt marsh next or swim among the giant kelp? We need more votes to decide, and you could be the one to tip the scales. Cast your ballot for your favorite ocean species and ecosystem, and stay tuned for the results.

You Navigate

We chose the tagline “You navigate” for the Ocean Portal in part because we really want you—the visitors to the site—to help steer the course. We hope you find your own intriguing paths to explore the OP as it exists now, but we’re also looking for input to help guide the site’s development in the months and years ahead. We’d like to call your attention to three ways you can easily speak your mind:

Phronima

This tiny, shrimplike creature is no more than 2.5 centimeters (1 inch) long, but it’s as ferocious as a shark. Its giant eyes spot prey. Huge claws grab the prey, and a tiny mouth rips it to shreds. The prey never sees what...

Hybrid Underwater Vehicle

A hybrid underwater vehicle combines the best features of an ROV (remotely operated vehicle), which is connected to a ship in order to transmit data and video feeds, and an AUV (autonomous underwater vehicle), which can swim...

Spiny Deepsea King Crab

This crab ( Neolithodes sp. ) was collected on a NOAA/MAR-ECO cruise to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge in the summer of 2009. Its red color provides camouflage and protection from predators. Red wavelengths are strongly absorbed by...

Scaly Dragonfish

The long barbel on the chin of this dragonfish ( Stomias boa ) has a glowing tip that may attract prey. With its large mouth and sharp, curved teeth, the fish makes quick work of any prey that venture too close. Scaly...

Glowing Sucker Octopus

This red octopod ( Stauroteuthis syrtensis ) shines in a novel way. Suckers stretching in a single row down each arm flash on and off. The glowing-sucker octopod drifts through deep waters off the eastern United States—down...

Fangtooth Fish

This aptly named fish ( Anoplogaster cornuta ) has long, menacing fangs, but the adult fish is small, reaching only about 6 inches (17 cm) in length. It's teeth are the largest in the ocean in proportion to body size, and...

Deepsea Lizardfish

This lizardfish (Bathysaurus ferox) rests on the ocean bottom with its head slightly elevated—waiting to snatch prey with its large mouth and sharp teeth. It lives at depths of 600-3,500 meters (1,969-11,483 feet) and grows...

Baleen: From Whales to People

For being so big, right whales eat very small food, which they catch using baleen. Baleen is the series of fringed plates hanging in right whales' mouths that are used to strain seawater for food. Until the early 1900's,...

Zones of the Open Ocean

Oceanographers divide the ocean into three broad zones. Together, they could hide 20 Washington Monuments stacked on top of each other. Each zone has a different mix of species adapted to its light levels, pressures, and...

Ocean Layers

Like a cake, the ocean has different layers—each with its own characteristics. (No icing, though.) The surface layer receives the most sunlight, allowing photosynthetic organisms like phytoplankton to convert sunlight to...

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