national marine sanctuary

What makes octopuses so awesome?

Well, here are just a few things:

Okay, so that’s a lot of awesome right there. But what about this:

Plus, they have some pretty amazing defense mechanisms, from changing color to blend in with their surroundings (or let you know they are angry):

To squeezing themselves into impossibly tiny places. (Did we mention they have no skeleton?)

And a bonus fact: octopuses live in almost all of our national marine sanctuaries!

Unless you’ve been diving off the California coast, the incredible color and diversity of its rocky reefs may surprise you. This 2,000-gallon tank—filled with vibrant brittle stars, painted greenlings, and rosy rockfish—offers just one small window into the vast array of fish and invertebrates that thrive in California’s National Marine Sanctuaries. (Starfish statement 📷 by visitor Vivian.)


On February 25, 2016, NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer embarked on a 23 day mission to explore uncharted ecosystems and seafloor in and around Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (PMNM) off the coast of Hawai’i. The monument is one of the largest conservation areas in the world; over 139,797 square miles and is home to 7,000 species, a variety of geological features and a Japanese aircraft carrier lost during WWII. 

The discovery of an unknown octopod - possibly a new species - has already caught the attention of the internet.

According to Athline Clark, PMNM superintendent for NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, "NOAA’s exploration efforts provide the information we need to properly protect the health and integrity of this precious ecosystem.“

The expedition includes 24-hour operations consisting of remotely operated vehicle (ROV) dives and mapping operations. All dives are being live-streamed so you can follow along!

Images Courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, 2016 Hohonu Moana.

What’s the difference between seals & sea lions?

Is this curious animal a sea lion or a seal? What’s the difference, anyway?

It’s a sea lion! Here are some ways you can tell these two types of pinnipeds apart:

Any questions?

How can an octopus be so colorful? 🐙 🌈

Many cephalopods have special cells in their skin tissue called chromatophores, which enable them to change color rapidly. A part of their neuromuscular system, these cells receive signals from the environment than an octopus can use to inform color change. Chromatophores can help octopodes like this one in Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary blend in with their surroundings or flash a warning to predators! 


What better way to celebrate Cephalopod Week than with a stubby squid? 

Last year, we teamed up with Nautilus Live to explore the deep ocean in and around Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, and spotted this little googly-eyed cephalopod! 

Though they look like a cross between an octopus and a squid, stubby squid are actually closely related to cuttlefish. They spend their lives on the seafloor, coating themselves in a mucus jacket and burrowing into the sediment. Leaving just those big eyes peeking above the surface, they remain buried until prey items like shrimp or small fish – or a curious ROV – pass by. 

(Photo: OET/NOAA)

Happy Whale Shark Day! 

Whale sharks, the largest fish on the planet, are summer visitors to Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. These highly migratory sharks can grow to about 30 feet in length and feed on tiny plankton. Each whale shark has a unique pattern of spots – just like your fingerprint! 

(Photo: Ryan Eckert/NOAA)

The tiniest of traveling companions: Here, a small school of fish (and even a tiny shrimp!) hitch a ride through the blue with a jellyfish in Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary.

 Some juvenile fish can live amidst a jelly’s tentacles without being harmed. In doing so, they gain protection from predators and the opportunity to feed on the jelly’s leftovers. Plus, they gain a new buddy to swim with! 

(Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA)

Happy 25th anniversary to Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary! 🎂 🎉

This amazing national marine sanctuary protects jaw-dropping scenic beauty and extraordinary biodiversity, and supports amazing coastal communities. By acting as responsible stewards of this ocean jewel, we strengthen our nation now and for future generations. 

Here, a newborn Risso’s dolphin calf celebrates the sanctuary’s birthday! Help us and our dolphin friend celebrate by sharing your favorite Monterey Bay memory. 

(Photo: Douglas Croft)

What’s the biggest bony fish in the sea? The mola mola, or ocean sunfish! 

This one was spotted in Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. Mola molas spend time basking on their sides near the surface, with their pectoral fins flapping in the air. Have you spotted one while visiting your sanctuaries?

(Photo: Maps for Good/NOAA/Point Blue/ACCESS)

We can’t conc-eel our excitement about this moray eel in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary!

This green moray rev-eeled its hiding place on the wreck of USNS Gen. Hoyt S Vandenberg, an artificial reef within the sanctuary. Green morays are masters of the surr-eel: their skin is actually a dull shade of brown, but they secrete a yellowish layer of mucus that makes them look green. This mucus layer helps ward off predators!

(Photo: Patrick Vandenabeele/NOAA)

What’s a seamount? 

Seamounts are mountains on the ocean floor that don’t reach sea level, generally formed from extinct volcanoes. Davidson Seamount at Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary is 7,480 feet tall — yet its summit is still 4,101 feet below the sea surface! This “oasis in the deep” is home to several unidentified deep-sea organisms, like this mollusk. 


What do you call a group of sharks? A shiver! 

Here, a shiver of leopard sharks swims in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Leopard sharks live in shallow waters of bays and estuaries and spend much of their time near the sea floor, feeding on animals like crabs, clams, and small fish. 

(Photo: Adam Obaza/NOAA)