Friday, August 29, 2008


Coral reefs are home to millions of fish and some of the most abundant and beautiful life on our planet. Coral reefs also provide a barrier to protect land from erosion and they can even form entire islands. Much of the sand found on many tropical beaches is actually coral, ground up and refined.

Coral may look like brightly colored rocks but they are actually living creatures that secrete a hard exoskeleton where they live. Colonies of thousands of tiny creatures cling together to build a coral head. These coral heads build on each other to make an entire coral reef where a myriad of life can thrive.

Coral are actually related to jellyfish and sea anemones. They are very delicate and can only live in certain conditions. They need clear, shallow water to allow plenty of sunlight to reach them. They also need very warm temperatures to thrive. This is why most coral reefs are only found in the tropics. The reason they need so much sunlight is because they actually have algae living in their cells. The coral provides the algae with shelter and safety, and the algae provides coral with energy. Coral also feeds on floating animal materials that it snags in its outstretched tentacles.

Thursday, August 28, 2008


Just about any sample of seawater taken will be full of plankton. Plankton is made up of microscopic plants (phytoplankton) and animals (zooplankton). Zooplankton are mostly too small to be seen with the naked eye. They are made up of the larva of some sea creatures, and other adult animals that never grow above microscopic sizes. Zooplankton are the second step in most food chains. Zooplankton eat phytoplankton, and often other zooplankton as well. They are in turn eaten by very small animals.

Some zooplankton swim while others simply drift. Some examples of the kinds of animals that can be found in zooplankton are krill (the tiny shrimp eaten blue whales), tiny jellyfish, and crab larvae. Many of the ocean's animals spend at least part of their lives drifting through the soup of plankton.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Now that I have discussed some of the biggest animals in the ocean, I will now talk about the smallest. The basis of the ocean's food chain is phytoplankton. The term phytoplankton refers to thousands of species of tiny plants and algae that live in the ocean. Phytoplankton work like other plants, turning sunlight and carbon dioxide into energy and oxygen. The phytoplankton in the ocean are responsible for over 50% of all oxygen in our atmosphere.

Phytoplankton comes in many shapes and sizes and all are microscopic. Any time you swim in the ocean, you are immersed in a soup of living plants. Murkier water tends to have more abundant plankton where clear water has very little.

Phytoplankton are the first step in most food chains in the ocean. Tiny animals called zooplankton eat phytoplankton. Larger animals eat zooplankton, and bigger fish and animals eat them. Many larger animals eat just phytoplankton as well. Whale sharks, the biggest fish in the world, eat nothing but phytoplankton.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Whale Shark

Whale Sharks are the biggest fish in the world. Blue whales are far bigger, but they are air breathing marine mammals. Whale sharks can grow up to 40 feet long and weigh up to 15 tons. Strangely enough, they are one of only 3 species of sharks in the ocean that are not harmful to humans. In fact they are often photographed swimming peacefully with divers.

These gentle giants do not have the rows of razor sharp teeth fitted in most of their relatives. Instead of prowling constantly in search of blood, they casually glide through the ocean with their huge mouths open wide. They are filter feeders. This means they strain out microscopic plankton from the ocean around them as their food. They are another example of one of the biggest animals in the ocean feeding on some of the smallest.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Giant Squid

Sailors used to tell stories of the Kraken, a great sea monster with long tentacles which could swallow ships whole. It is believed this mythical beast was inspired by the real monsters in the ocean, the giant squid. This creature has been a mystery to science until very recently. The largest giant squid on record is over 60 feet long. It is by far the largest invertebrate in the world, and the biggest mollusk in the ocean.

Giant squid are very elusive and live in such deep water it is almost impossible to seek them out. Scientists knew these squid must be real because they found giant suction cup scars on Sperm-Whales that were known to feed on these giant mollusks. Giant tentacles were then found in the belly of dead Sperm-Whales, and then some bodies of giant squid were found washed up on the beach. But for centuries no living specimens were found, until 2004.

The photo above was taken by a Japanese research team that captured the first live giant squid on record. It was said to have put up quite a fight, but the team finally caught it and pulled it on board. It died while being captured, but its body was measured at 24 feet long. This was not a fully grown specimen. Giant squid are commonly known to grow over twice that size.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Blue Whale

So for my first post, I'll start with the biggest animal in the ocean. Actually this is the biggest animal in the whole world. The Blue Whale can grow up to 110 feet long and weigh over 200 tons. Such a huge creature could never live on land because it would be crushed by its own weight, but it moves gracefully and effortlessly through the water. Strangely enough, the biggest animal in the world only eats tiny shrimp-like creatures called Krill. You can buy them at the pet store to feed your aquarium fish.

Friday, August 15, 2008


The ocean is home to some of the most beautiful and amazing creatures on earth. It covers about 71% of the earth yet man has only been able to explore a tiny fraction of it. It stands as the greatest scientific frontier. Man has always been fascinated with the ocean and the life dwelling in it. I have always had a deep love for the ocean. I will be posting about some of the most interesting creatures in the ocean, along with man's adaptations to life and recreation on the vast aquamarine horizon.