Portal:Marine life

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Marine life

General characteristics of a large marine ecosystem (Gulf of Alaska)

Marine life, or sea life or ocean life, is the plants, animals and other organisms that live in the salt water of the sea or ocean, or the brackish water of coastal estuaries. At a fundamental level, marine life helps determine the very nature of our planet. Marine organisms produce much of the oxygen we breathe. Shorelines are in part shaped and protected by marine life, and some marine organisms even help create new land.

Most life forms evolved initially in marine habitats. Oceans provide about 99 percent of the living space on the planet. The earliest vertebrates appeared in the form of fish, which live exclusively in water. Some of these evolved into amphibians which spend portions of their lives in water and portions on land. Other fish evolved into land mammals and subsequently returned to the ocean as seals, dolphins or whales. Plant forms such as kelp and algae grow in the water and are the basis for some underwater ecosystems. Plankton, and particularly phytoplankton, are key primary producers forming the general foundation of the ocean food chain.

Marine vertebrates must obtain oxygen to survive, and they do so in various ways. Fish have gills instead of lungs, although some species of fish, such as the lungfish, have both. Marine mammals, such as dolphins, whales, otters, and seals need to surface periodically to breathe air. Some amphibians are able to absorb oxygen through their skin. Invertebrates exhibit a wide range of modifications to survive in poorly oxygenated waters including breathing tubes (see insect and mollusc siphons) and gills (Carcinus). However, as invertebrate life evolved in an aquatic habitat most have little or no specialisation for respiration in water.

Altogether there are 230,000 documented marine species, including about 20,000 species of fish, and it has been estimated that nearly two million marine species are yet to be documented. Marine species range in size from the microscopic, including plankton and phytoplankton which can be as small as 0.02 micrometres, to huge cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) including the blue whale, the largest known animal reaching up to 33 metres (109 feet) in length. Marine microorganisms, including bacteria and viruses, constitute more than 90% of the total marine biomass.

Selected article

The Antarctic Krill

Antarctic krill, Euphausia superba, is a species of krill found in the Antarctic waters of the Southern Ocean. Antarctic krill are shrimp-like invertebrates that live in large schools, called swarms, sometimes reaching densities of 10,000 - 30,000 animals per cubic metre. They are herbivorous feeding directly on minute phytoplankton, thereby using the primary production energy that the phytoplankton originally derived from the sun in order to sustain their pelagic (open ocean) life cycle. They grow to a length of 6 cm, weigh up to 2 grams, and can live for up to six years. They are a key species in the Antarctic ecosystem and are likely to be the most successful animal species on the planet in terms of biomass (approximately 500 million tonnes).

More on Antarctic krill They have large brown eyes and a translucent reddish shell. Female Krill can lay up to 10,000 eggs at a time. And they are used to produce krill oil and krill meal which is used for animal feed. As a prey, they are important part of the marine ecosystem, acting as a food source to predators like Wild Salmon. Krill can survive for a long period without foods, but they will become shrink in length.

Selected biography

Nicholai Miklukho-Maklai

Nicholai Nicholaevich Miklukho-Maklai (Николай Николаевич Миклухо-Маклай in Russian) (18461888) was a Russian ethnologist, anthropologist and biologist.

Miklukho-Maklai was born in a temporary workers camp near Novgorod, a son of a civil engineer working on the construction of the Moscow-Saint Petersburg Railway. He attended a grammar school in Saint Petersburg, then went on to study at St. Petersburg University.

He travelled and studied widely in Europe, and became a close friend of the biologist Anton Dohrn, with whom he helped conceive the idea of "research stations" while staying with him at Messina, Italy.

Miklukho-Maklai left St Petersburg for Australia on the schooner Vityaz. He arrived in Sydney on 18 July, 1878. A few days after arriving, he approached the Linnean Society and offered to organise a zoological centre. In September 1878 his offer was approved. The centre, known as the Maritime Biological Centre, was constructed by prominent Sydney architect, John Kirkpatrick. This was the first marine biological research institute in Australia.

He visited Papua New Guinea on a number of occasions, and lived amongst the native tribes, writing a comprehensive treatise on their way of life and customs.

More on Nicholai Miklukho-Maklai

Did you know...

Light microscopy image of the undescribed species of Spinoloricus that is living in anoxic environment (Stained with Rose Bengal). Scale bar is 50 μm.
Titan triggerfish.jpg
  • Triggerfishes are the brightly coloured fishes of the family Balistidae. (pictured)
  • The sea otter often keeps a stone tool in its armpit pouch.

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Selected image

Cuttlefish use camouflage to hide from predators.
Photo credit: Raul654

Cuttlefish are sometimes called the chameleon of the sea because of their remarkable ability to rapidly alter their skin colour at will. Their skin flashes a fast-changing pattern as communication to other cuttlefish and to camouflage them from predators.

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Marine Life Categories

Major Fields of Marine Biology: Marine Biology - Ecology - Zoology - Animal Taxonomy

Specific Fields of Marine Biology: Herpetology - Ichthyology - Planktology - Ornithology

Biologists: Zoologists - Algologists - Malacologists - Conchologists - Biologists - Marine Biologists - Anatomists - Botanists - Ecologists - Ichthyologists

Organisms:

Plants: Algae - Brown Algae - Green Algae - Red Algae - Sea Vegetables -

Invertebrates: Cnidarians - Echinoderms - Molluscs - Bivalves - Cephalopods - Gastropods

Fish: Fish - Bony fish - Lobe-finned fish - Ray-finned fish - Cartilaginous fish - Electric fish - Fish diseases - Rays - Sharks - Extinct fish - Fictional fish - Fisheries science - Fishing - Fishkeeping - Live-bearing fish

Reptiles and Amphibians: Marine reptiles - Sea turtles - Mosasaurs - Sauropterygia

Mammals: Marine mammals - Cetaceans - Pinnipeds - Sirenians

Miscellaneous: Aquaria - Oceanaria - Agnatha - Endangered species - Aquatic biomes - Ecozones - Aquatic organisms - Cyanobacteria - Dinoflaggellates

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