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) which in the case of the blue whale reach up to 33 metres (109 feet) in length, being the largest known animal.

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Shrimp growout pond on a farm in South Korea.

A shrimp farm is an aquaculture business for the cultivation of marine shrimp or prawns for human consumption. Commercial shrimp farming began in the 1970s, and production grew steeply, particularly to match the market demands of the USA, Japan and Western Europe. The total global production of farmed shrimp reached more than 1.6 million tonnes in 2003, representing a value of nearly 9,000 million U.S. dollars. About 75% of farmed shrimp is produced in Asia, in particular in China and Thailand. The other 25% is produced mainly in Latin America, where Brazil is the largest producer. The largest exporting nation is Thailand.

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Sir John Murray, 1902

Sir John Murray (March 3, 1841–March 16, 1914) was a pioneering Scots-Canadian oceanographer and marine biologist.

Murray was born on 3 March 1841, at Cobourg, Ontario, Canada, to Scottish parents who had emigrated seven years earlier. He returned to Scotland to study, firstly at Stirling High School, and then at the University of Edinburgh, but soon left to join a whaling expedition to Spitsbergen as ships' surgeon in 1868.

He returned to Edinburgh to complete his studies in geology under Sir Archibald Geikie and natural philosophy under Peter Guthrie Tait. Tait introduced Murray to Charles Wyville Thomson who had been appointed to lead the Challenger Expedition. In 1872, Murray joined Wyville Thomson as his assistant on this four-year expedition to explore the deep oceans of the globe. After Wyville Thompson succumbed to the stress of publishing the reports of the Challenger Expedition, Murray took over, and edited and published over 50 volumes of reports, which were completed in 1896. He was knighted (K.C.B) in 1898. Murray was killed when his car overturned near his home on March 16 1914 at Kirkliston, Edinburgh, and he is buried at the nearby Dean Kirkyard.

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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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Magellanic penguin (Spheniscus magellanicus) near Punta Arena, Chile.
Photo credit: NASA

The Magellanic penguin (Spheniscus magellanicus) is a South American penguin, breeding in coastal Argentina, Chile and the Falkland Islands, with some migrating to Brazil. It is the most numerous of the Spheniscus penguins. Its nearest relatives are the African Penguin, the Humboldt Penguin and the Galápagos Penguin.

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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

Marine Life Topics

Ocean zones: Photic zoneAphotic zonePelagic zoneNeritic zoneLittoral zoneSublittoral zoneBenthic zone
Plants and Algae: AlgaeBrown algaeRed algaeGreen algaeSeagrassPhytoplankton
Invertebrates: SquidCuttlefishCrabsLobstersStarfish Cscr-featured.svgSea UrchinJellyfishPortuguese man o' warCorals Symbol support vote.svgTunicates Symbol support vote.svg
Fish: LampreysJawless fishCartilagenous fishBony fishSharksRaysSkatesCoelacanthsLungfishPlacodermiLobe-finned fishRay-finned fishSturgeonsGarsEelsHerringsSalmonTroutLancetfishAnglerfishToadfishCodsFlyingfishSeahorsesFlatfishScorpionfishCichlids
Reptiles: CrocodilesAlligatorsCaimanGharialTurtlesSea turtlesLeatherback turtleMarine iguanaSea snakes Symbol support vote.svg
Birds: PenguinsSea gullsKittiwakesAlbatrosses Cscr-featured.svgSea ducksCormorantsSea eagleGuillemotsPuffinsAuksTernsGannetsOsprey Symbol support vote.svgRazorbillOystercatchers
Mammals: MonotremesMarsupialsCetaceansWhalesDolphinsPorpoisesPinnipedsWalruses Symbol support vote.svgTrue sealsFur sealsSea LionsSireniansManateesDugongs Symbol support vote.svgPolar bear Symbol support vote.svgSea otter Cscr-featured.svgMarine otterBlubber
Cscr-featured.svg Represents a Featured article, Symbol support vote.svg Represents a Good article


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