5. Diversity in the Ocean

The ocean has lots of diversity. This means that there are lots of different types of plants and animals, and also that there are many things to still be discovered. 

In the ocean, we see animals with special adaptations. Adaptations are characteristics or traits that help an animal survive. Humans have some very special adaptations. For example - take a look at your thumbs. There are not very many animals who have thumbs. How do our thumbs make us different from other animals? Thumbs are a special characteristic which allows humans to handle food. This adaptation made it easier for us to find and eat our food. In the ocean, just like on land, the environment impacts how animals adapt. An animals adaptations are influenced by the place that they are found. Sometimes these adaptations are physical, such as a change to their body (like thumbs). And sometimes, animals change the way they act (behaviour) in order to survive.

For example, smaller fish living in the wide, open ocean often swim together in a behavior called schooling. Take a look at this picture. These fish are swimming in the open ocean. There is nothing around them, and nowhere to hide. Why would these fish want to swim together when they live in this kind of habitat?

Photo Source; Derek Keats, Flickr

Fish that live in the big open ocean could face a predator coming from any direction. By schooling together these fish have a better chance of spotting dangers or having their neighbor eaten instead of them! This is a behavioral adaptation for surviving in the open ocean.

Sometimes these adaptions are physical. Beluga whales live in the cold Arctic ocean and have many different adaptations for surviving in this extreme environment. One of their biggest adaptation is their blubber! Blubber is a thick layer of fat that surrounds the beluga's body to keep them warm, like when you wear a thick jacket when it is cold outside.

There are lots of different kinds of habitats just like there are lots of different kinds of animals. These habitats are described by the amount of salt, light, heat, and pressure that they have. The Arctic ocean, covered with ice and cold water, is very different from a warm, tropical coral reef. Some animals live among the rocky ocean floor while others live in the wide, open ocean where there is nowhere to hide. Some animals even live so deep down that there is no light and a huge amount of pressure. What sort of adaptations do you think these animals would have?

Even though the ocean has a wide diversity of plants, animals, and habitat, not all oceans can support life. All organisms have a comfort zone in which they like to live in. That is why you do not see tropical fishing living up in the Arctic. Some areas of the ocean are so extreme that nothing can live there at all. Take the Will I Survive? quiz to learn more about these adaptations and test your knowledge!

In the next section, we are going to talk more about how humans impact the ocean and how the ocean impacts humans. Before moving on, take the Diversity of Organisms quiz to review your knowledge and earn your badge. You can find the quiz HERE. After you complete the quiz you may move onto the next section: Oceans and People.

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