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 affects the nature of the planet. Marine organisms produce oxygen and sequester carbon. Shorelines are in part shaped and protected by marine life, and some marine organisms even help create new land. The term marine comes from the Latin mare, meaning sea or ocean.
Most life forms evolved initially in marine habitats. By volume, oceans provide about 90 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 forms the general foundation of the ocean food chain, particularly the phytoplankton which are key primary producers.
Marine invertebrates exhibit a wide range of modifications to survive in poorly oxygenated waters, including breathing tubes as in mollusc siphons. 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.
A total of 230,000 documented marine species exist with some two million marine species yet to be documented. Marine species range in size from the microscopic, including 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 33 metres (108 ft) in length. Marine microorganisms, including protists, bacteria and viruses, constitute about 70% of the total marine biomass.
Carcinus maenas is a common littoral crab, and an important invasive species. It is listed among the 100 "world's worst invasive alien species".
C. maenas is known by different names around the world. In the British Isles, it is generally referred to simply as the shore crab. In North America and South Africa, it bears the name green crab or European green crab. In Australia and New Zealand, it is referred to as either the European green crab or European shore crab.
C. maenas has a carapace up to 60 mm long and 90 mm wide, with five short teeth along the rim behind each eye, and three undulations between the eyes. The undulations, which do not protrude beyond the eyes are the simplest means of distinguishing C. maenas from the closely-related C. aestuarii, which can also be an invasive species. In C. aestuarii, the carapace lacks any bumps and extends forward beyond the eyes. The other character for distinguishing the two species is the form of the first and second pleopods (collectively the gonopods), which are straight and parallel in C. aestuarii, but curve outwards in C. maenas .
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Rachel Louise Carson (27 May 1907 – 14 April 1964) was a Pittsburgh-born zoologist and marine biologist whose landmark book, Silent Spring, is often credited with having launched the global environmental movement. Silent Spring had an immense effect in the United States, where it spurred a reversal in national pesticide policy.
Rachel Carson was born in 1907 on a small family farm near Springdale. As a child, she spent many hours learning about ponds, fields, and forests from her mother. She originally went to school to study English and creative writing, but switched her major to marine biology. Her talent for writing would help her in her new field, as she resolved to "make animals in the woods or waters, where they live, as alive to others as they are to me". She graduated from the Pennsylvania College for Women, today known as Chatham College, in 1929 with magna cum laude honors. Despite financial difficulties, she continued her studies in zoology and genetics at Johns Hopkins University, earning a master's degree in zoology in 1932.
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Did you know...
- 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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