marine organisms

Typically measuring ~88 centimeters (but with recordings found up to 104 centimeters), the venomous golden cow-nose rays migrate in groups of up to 10,000 as they make their way towards their summer feeding grounds in the Gulf of Mexico. 

The ocean is vast, so how do researchers at national marine sanctuaries study what lives there? They listen! 

The sounds fish and other marine organisms make are species-specific, so listening to them is a great way to determine what’s in the sanctuary. Researchers at Stellwagen Bank, Gray’s Reef, Florida Keys and Flower Garden Banks national marine sanctuaries deploy shallow water hydrophones to record ambient sound, like that of fishes and boats. Researchers have also deployed deep-water hydrophones in Cordell Bank, Channel Islands, and Olympic Coast national marine sanctuaries to record sounds like whales and ships. These listening stations will help us learn how noisy our sanctuaries are. 

(Photo: NOAA, taken in Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary)

  • Phylum: Arthropoda
  • Subphylum: Chelicerata 
  • Class: Arachnida 

This is the Diving Bell spider and is the only spider known to live its entire life under water. It breathes air but it does so by trapping air in a bubble and holding onto it with hairs on its abdomen and legs while underwater. This bubble (bell) permits gas exchange with the surrounding water; taking in oxygen and releasing carbon dioxide. The spider will spend most of its time in this bubble and very rarely needs to replenish the air thanks to the gas exchange. 


Marine aliens by Adolf Schaller, from Terence Dickinson’s Extraterrestrials: A Field Guide For Earthlings. Convergence is a big theme here, environmental pressures dictating superficial similarities to terrestrial forms.


It’s Corals Week! Coral reefs are thought to contain the greatest level of biodiversity of any ecosystem in the world – even more than tropical rainforests. 

Hundreds of marine organisms rely on coral reefs for food, shelter, mating grounds and more, like this mithrax crab in Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary. While some species eat coral, others protect corals from algae overgrowth and filter water surrounding corals, recycling nutrients and removing debris. Mithrax crabs like this one munch on algae and decaying material on the reef, obtaining food while helping clean the reef. 

Without healthy reefs, hundreds of marine organisms would lose valuable resources they need to survive, and biodiversity in our ocean would suffer. Stay tuned this week to learn more about reefs, and what we can do to protect these critical habitats! 

(Photo: NOAA)

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Taxon: Cephalochordata

Lancelets are small, invertebrate marine organisms that are unique in that the notochord (skeletal rod) extends beyond the anterior end of the dorsal nerve tube. These suspension feeders burrow into shallow sediments with just the head protruding. Seawater enters the pharynx and passes through the pharyngeal slits where food is filtered and passed to the intestine. 

Photograph from:

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries! It’s only with your support that we can successfully protect our nation’s precious marine ecosystems, and we are ever-thankful for you. 

We’re also thankful for the expansion of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, which has granted protection to thousands more marine organisms and many critical habitats. This expansion marked a major conservation success for our ocean, and will help protect endangered species like this cuddly monk seal and green sea turtle for decades to come. 

To all of our friends, partners, and supporters, we wish you a Happy Thanksgiving, and a wonderful holiday season! 

(Photo: Mark Sullivan/NOAA) 

im just remembering the unit we had on deep sea organisms in marine biology and keep thinking how absolutely horrendous and ugly a deep sea dragon would be

would be basically translucent. either has GINORMOUS eyes like squid or itsy bitsy useless ones. uses bioluminescence (fun fact: red bioluminescensce is the rarest, as red has the shortest wavelengths and is basically useless for long distance communication. most deep sea fish can’t see red. which is why some deep sea predators have red “search lights” under their eyes to spot prey that can’t see ‘em coming). is really flat or blob like because high pressure. rarely moves, it’s an ambush predator. can sit still for months until food drifts bye. can’t swim fast, but can strike very quickly. super efficient energy conserving ability.

dont forget the gnarly teeth, flexible and extendable stomach, and random tentacle appendages

pictures of gross and nasty deep sea fish below

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German biologist Ernst Haeckel illustrated and described thousands of deep-sea specimens collected during the 1873-1876 H.M.S. Challenger expedition. Haeckel used a microscope to capture the intricate structure of these radiolarians—single-celled marine organisms with glassy (silica) skeletons—for his 1879 work Report on the Radiolaria collected by H.M.S. Challenger.
See this 45 other exquisite reproductions from 33 rare and beautifully illustrated scientific works in the exhibition, Opulent Oceans: Extraordinary Scientific Illustrations from the Museum’s Library, now open.

How do deep sea creatures survive where nutrients are scarce?

‘Marine snow’ is basically organic matter, things like particles of dead algae, plants, and animals, drifting down into the depths and acting as food for deep-sea animals. Largely thanks to that, abundant life forms exist in the darkness, adapting to a harsh reality where only the weird and wonderful can survive. 

Explore more of the deep ocean in the TED-Ed Lesson The otherworldly creatures in the ocean’s deepest depths - Lidia Lins

Animation by Viviane Leezer


Ocean acidification is predicted to have detrimental effects on many marine organisms and ecological processes. Despite growing evidence for direct impacts on specific species, few studies have simultaneously considered the effects of ocean acidification on individuals (e.g. consequences for energy budgets and resource partitioning) and population level demographic processes.

A new study claims that the acidification of the ocean could be negatively altering the population dynamics of marine species and preventing them from being able to adapt to future climate change. In particular, the study examines the gastropod banded dye-murex (Hexaplex trunculus), a widespread Mediterranean mollusc.  and its response to ocean acidification over numerous generations, and found that they trade-off the maintenance of their shells in order to compensate for the living conditions of acidified oceans, which poses a higher cost of living.

UK researchers  discovered that that these changes to the energy budget may not be the same for males and females, and at a population-level, those individuals contributing to reproduction change year-on-year, resulting in a genetic drift that could hinder the potential for genetic adaptation to ocean acidification

Acclimatization can buffer populations against the immediate impacts of ocean acidification, and even provide time for adaptation (…) However, it can also result in stress-induced energetic trade-offs, and unless organisms can compensate for the extra costs caused by ocean acidification, then they may suffer negative consequences in the form of reduced growth, development and reproduction. said Samuel Rastrick, who participated in the research.

Even against a background of high gene flow, ocean acidification is driving individual- and population-level changes that will impact eco-evolutionary trajectories.


The latest episode of Shelf Life introduces viewers to foraminifera, microscopic marine organisms known informally as forams.

Although foraminifera are single-celled creatures, they have tiny shells that come in an amazing array of shapes. Forams are usually tiny, about half a millimeter long, but larger specimens can measure up to 20 centimeters—about the length of a guinea pig. (Yes, you read that correctly—a single-celled organism the length of a guinea pig.)

Though there are more than 10,000 recognized species of forams, these organisms can be broken down into two main groups: benthic forams, which live in deep ocean habitats, and planktonic forams, which live in warmer waters closer to the surface. 

Learn more about forams on the Museum blog

CT Scan Footage: AMNH/Shaun Mahmood


The video in this episode of Shelf Life explores the Museum’s fossil collection of tiny marine organisms known as foraminifera or—when even scientists admit six syllables is a mouthful—forams. These are abundant, widely-scattered, single-celled creatures that still fill oceans today. The fossilized shells left behind by their foram forefathers are widely used as time capsules for ancient climate data. #ShelfLife returns 11/1.