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 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. 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.

Altogether there are 230,000 documented marine species, including about 20,000 species of marine 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.

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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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Edward Drinker Cope

Edward Drinker Cope (July 28, 1840–April 12, 1897) was an American paleontologist and comparative anatomist.

Cope was born in Philadelphia to Quaker parents. At an early age he became interested in natural history, and in 1859 communicated a paper on the Salamandridae to the Academy of Natural Sciences at Philadelphia. It was about this time that he became affiliated with the Megatherium Club at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. He was educated partly in the University of Pennsylvania and, after further study and travel in Europe, was appointed curator to the Academy of Natural Sciences in 1865, a post which he held until 1873. From 18641867 he was professor of natural science at Haverford College, and in 1889 he was appointed professor of geology and palaeontology by the University of Pennsylvania.

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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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Two cuttlefish interacting at the Georgia Aquarium.
Photo credit: Diliff

Cuttlefish are marine animals of the order Sepiida belonging to the Cephalopoda class (which also include squids, octopuses and nautilus). Although the name suggests it, cuttlefish are not fish, but molluscs. Cuttlefish have an internal shell, large eyes, and eight arms and two tentacles furnished with denticulated suckers, by means of which they secure their prey.

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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

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