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Marine biology is the scientific study of the biology of marine life, organisms in the sea. Given that in biology many phyla, families and genera have some species that live in the sea and others that live on land, marine biology classifies species based on the environment rather than on taxonomy.
A large proportion of all life on Earth lives in the ocean. The exact size of this large proportion is unknown, since many ocean species are still to be discovered. The ocean is a complex three-dimensional world 25–32 meters (82–105 feet) in length. Marine ecology is the study of how marine organisms interact with each other and the environment.covering approximately 71% of the Earth's surface. The habitats studied in marine biology include everything from the tiny layers of surface water in which organisms and abiotic items may be trapped in surface tension between the ocean and atmosphere, to the depths of the oceanic trenches, sometimes 10,000 meters or more beneath the surface of the ocean. Specific habitats include estuaries, coral reefs, kelp forests, seagrass meadows, the surrounds of seamounts and thermal vents, tidepools, muddy, sandy and rocky bottoms, and the open ocean (pelagic) zone, where solid objects are rare and the surface of the water is the only visible boundary. The organisms studied range from microscopic phytoplankton and zooplankton to huge cetaceans (whales)
Marine life is a vast resource, providing food, medicine, and raw materials, in addition to helping to support recreation and tourism all over the world. At a fundamental level, marine life helps determine the very nature of our planet. Marine organisms contribute significantly to the oxygen cycle, and are involved in the regulation of the Earth's climate.Shorelines are in part shaped and protected by marine life, and some marine organisms even help create new land.
Many species are economically important to humans, including both finfish and shellfish. It is also becoming understood that the well-being of marine organisms and other organisms are linked in fundamental ways. The human body of knowledge regarding the relationship between life in the sea and important cycles is rapidly growing, with new discoveries being made nearly every day. These cycles include those of matter (such as the carbon cycle) and of air (such as Earth's respiration, and movement of energy through ecosystems including the ocean). Large areas beneath the ocean surface still remain effectively unexplored.
Marine biology can be contrasted with biological oceanography. Marine life is a field of study both in marine biology and in biological oceanography. Biological oceanography is the study of how organisms affect and are affected by the physics, chemistry, and geology of the oceanographic system. Biological oceanography mostly focuses on the microorganisms within the ocean; looking at how they are affected by their environment and how that affects larger marine creatures and their ecosystem.Biological oceanography is similar to marine biology, but it studies ocean life from a different perspective. Biological oceanography takes a bottom up approach in terms of the food web, while marine biology studies the ocean from a top down perspective. Biological oceanography mainly focuses on the ecosystem of the ocean with an emphasis on plankton: their diversity (morphology, nutritional sources, motility, and metabolism); their productivity and how that plays a role in the global carbon cycle; and their distribution (predation and life cycle). Biological oceanography also investigates the role of microbes in food webs, and how humans impact the ecosystems in the oceans.
Marine habitats can be divided into coastal and open ocean habitats. Coastal habitats are found in the area that extends from the shoreline to the edge of the continental shelf. Most marine life is found in coastal habitats, even though the shelf area occupies only seven percent of the total ocean area. Open ocean habitats are found in the deep ocean beyond the edge of the continental shelf. Alternatively, marine habitats can be divided into pelagic and demersal habitats. Pelagic habitats are found near the surface or in the open water column, away from the bottom of the ocean and affected by ocean currents, while demersal habitats are near or on the bottom. Marine habitats can be modified by their inhabitants. Some marine organisms, like corals, kelp and sea grasses, are ecosystem engineers which reshape the marine environment to the point where they create further habitat for other organisms.
Intertidal zones, the areas that are close to the shore, are constantly being exposed and covered by the ocean's tides. A huge array of life can be found within this zone. Shore habitats span from the upper intertidal zones to the area where land vegetation takes prominence. It can be underwater anywhere from daily to very infrequently. Many species here are scavengers, living off of sea life that is washed up on the shore. Many land animals also make much use of the shore and intertidal habitats. A subgroup of organisms in this habitat bores and grinds exposed rock through the process of bioerosion.
Estuaries are also near shore and influenced by the tides. An estuary is a partially enclosed coastal body of water with one or more rivers or streams flowing into it and with a free connection to the open sea.Estuaries form a transition zone between freshwater river environments and saltwater maritime environments. They are subject both to marine influences—such as tides, waves, and the influx of saline water—and to riverine influences—such as flows of fresh water and sediment. The shifting flows of both sea water and fresh water provide high levels of nutrients both in the water column and in sediment, making estuaries among the most productive natural habitats in the world.
Reefs comprise some of the densest and most diverse habitats in the world. The best-known types of reefs are tropical coral reefs which exist in most tropical waters; however, reefs can also exist in cold water. Reefs are built up by corals and other calcium-depositing animals, usually on top of a rocky outcrop on the ocean floor. Reefs can also grow on other surfaces, which has made it possible to create artificial reefs. Coral reefs also support a huge community of life, including the corals themselves, their symbiotic zooxanthellae, tropical fish and many other organisms.
Much attention in marine biology is focused on coral reefs and the El Niño weather phenomenon. In 1998, coral reefs experienced the most severe mass bleaching events on record, when vast expanses of reefs across the world died because sea surface temperatures rose well above normal.Some reefs are recovering, but scientists say that between 50% and 70% of the world's coral reefs are now endangered and predict that global warming could exacerbate this trend.
The open ocean is relatively unproductive because of a lack of nutrients, yet because it is so vast, in total it produces the most primary productivity. The open ocean is separated into different zones, and the different zones each have different ecologies.Zones which vary according to their depth include the epipelagic, mesopelagic, bathypelagic, abyssopelagic, and hadopelagic zones. Zones which vary by the amount of light they receive include the photic and aphotic zones. Much of the aphotic zone's energy is supplied by the open ocean in the form of detritus.
The deepest recorded oceanic trench measured to date is the Mariana Trench, near the Philippines, in the Pacific Ocean at 10,924 m (35,840 ft). At such depths, water pressure is extreme and there is no sunlight, but some life still exists. A white flatfish, a shrimp and a jellyfish were seen by the American crew of the bathyscaphe Trieste when it dove to the bottom in 1960. In general, the deep sea is considered to start at the aphotic zone, the point where sunlight loses its power of transference through the water. Many life forms that live at these depths have the ability to create their own light known as bio-luminescence. Marine life also flourishes around seamounts that rise from the depths, where fish and other sea life congregate to spawn and feed. Hydrothermal vents along the mid-ocean ridge spreading centers act as oases, as do their opposites, cold seeps. Such places support unique biomes and many new microbes and other lifeforms have been discovered at these locations.
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In biology many phyla, families and genera have some species that live in the sea and others that live on land. Marine biology classifies species based on the environment rather than on taxonomy. For this reason marine biology encompasses not only organisms that live only in a marine environment, but also other organisms whose lives revolve around the sea.
As inhabitants of the largest environment on Earth, microbial marine systems drive changes in every global system. Microbes are responsible for virtually all the photosynthesis that occurs in the ocean, as well as the cycling of carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus and other nutrients and trace elements.
Microscopic life undersea is incredibly diverse and still poorly understood. For example, the role of viruses in marine ecosystems is barely being explored even in the beginning of the 21st century.
The role of phytoplankton is better understood due to their critical position as the most numerous primary producers on Earth. Phytoplankton are categorized into cyanobacteria (also called blue-green algae/bacteria), various types of algae (red, green, brown, and yellow-green), diatoms, dinoflagellates, euglenoids, coccolithophorids, cryptomonads, chrysophytes, chlorophytes, prasinophytes, and silicoflagellates.
Zooplankton tend to be somewhat larger, and not all are microscopic. Many Protozoa are zooplankton, including dinoflagellates, zooflagellates, foraminiferans, and radiolarians. Some of these (such as dinoflagellates) are also phytoplankton; the distinction between plants and animals often breaks down in very small organisms. Other zooplankton include cnidarians, ctenophores, chaetognaths, molluscs, arthropods, urochordates, and annelids such as polychaetes. Many larger animals begin their life as zooplankton before they become large enough to take their familiar forms. Two examples are fish larvae and sea stars (also called starfish).
Microscopic algae and plants provide important habitats for life, sometimes acting as hiding places for larval forms of larger fish and foraging places for invertebrates.
Algal life is widespread and very diverse under the ocean. Microscopic photosynthetic algae contribute a larger proportion of the world's photosynthetic output than all the terrestrial forests combined. Most of the niche occupied by sub plants on land is actually occupied by macroscopic algae in the ocean, such as Sargassum and kelp, which are commonly known as seaweeds that create kelp forests.
Plants that survive in the sea are often found in shallow waters, such as the seagrasses (examples of which are eelgrass, Zostera , and turtle grass, Thalassia). These plants have adapted to the high salinity of the ocean environment. The intertidal zone is also a good place to find plant life in the sea, where mangroves or cordgrass or beach grass might grow.
As on land, invertebrates make up a huge portion of all life in the sea. Invertebrate sea life includes Cnidaria such as jellyfish and sea anemones; Ctenophora; sea worms including the phyla Platyhelminthes, Nemertea, Annelida, Sipuncula, Echiura, Chaetognatha, and Phoronida; Mollusca including shellfish, squid, octopus; Arthropoda including Chelicerata and Crustacea; Porifera; Bryozoa; Echinodermata including starfish; and Urochordata including sea squirts or tunicates. Invertebrates have no backbone. There are over a million species.
Over 1500 species of fungi are known from marine environments.These are parasitic on marine algae or animals, or are saprobes on algae, corals, protozoan cysts, sea grasses, wood and other substrata, and can also be found in sea foam. Spores of many species have special appendages which facilitate attachment to the substratum. A very diverse range of unusual secondary metabolites is produced by marine fungi.
A reported 33,400 species of fish, including bony and cartilaginous fish, had been described by 2016,more than all other vertebrates combined. About 60% of fish species live in saltwater.
Reptiles which inhabit or frequent the sea include sea turtles, sea snakes, terrapins, the marine iguana, and the saltwater crocodile. Most extant marine reptiles, except for some sea snakes, are oviparous and need to return to land to lay their eggs. Thus most species, excepting sea turtles, spend most of their lives on or near land rather than in the ocean. Despite their marine adaptations, most sea snakes prefer shallow waters nearby land, around islands, especially waters that are somewhat sheltered, as well as near estuaries.Some extinct marine reptiles, such as ichthyosaurs, evolved to be viviparous and had no requirement to return to land.
Birds adapted to living in the marine environment are often called seabirds. Examples include albatross, penguins, gannets, and auks. Although they spend most of their lives in the ocean, species such as gulls can often be found thousands of miles inland.
There are five main types of marine mammals, namely cetaceans (toothed whales and baleen whales); sirenians such as manatees; pinnipeds including seals and the walrus; sea otters; and the polar bear. All are air-breathing, and while some such as the sperm whale can dive for prolonged periods, all must return to the surface to breathe.
The marine ecosystem is large, and thus there are many sub-fields of marine biology. Most involve studying specializations of particular animal groups, such as phycology, invertebrate zoology and ichthyology. Other subfields study the physical effects of continual immersion in sea water and the ocean in general, adaptation to a salty environment, and the effects of changing various oceanic properties on marine life. A subfield of marine biology studies the relationships between oceans and ocean life, and global warming and environmental issues (such as carbon dioxide displacement). Recent marine biotechnology has focused largely on marine biomolecules, especially proteins, that may have uses in medicine or engineering. Marine environments are the home to many exotic biological materials that may inspire biomimetic materials.
Marine biology is a branch of biology. It is closely linked to oceanography and may be regarded as a sub-field of marine science. It also encompasses many ideas from ecology. Fisheries science and marine conservation can be considered partial offshoots of marine biology (as well as environmental studies). Marine Chemistry, Physical oceanography and Atmospheric sciences are closely related to this field.
An active research topic in marine biology is to discover and map the life cycles of various species and where they spend their time. Technologies that aid in this discovery include pop-up satellite archival tags, acoustic tags, and a variety of other data loggers. Marine biologists study how the ocean currents, tides and many other oceanic factors affect ocean life forms, including their growth, distribution and well-being. This has only recently become technically feasible with advances in GPS and newer underwater visual devices.[ citation needed ]
Most ocean life breeds in specific places, nests or not in others, spends time as juveniles in still others, and in maturity in yet others. Scientists know little about where many species spend different parts of their life cycles especially in the infant and juvenile years. For example, it is still largely unknown where juvenile sea turtles and some year-1 sharks travel. Recent advances in underwater tracking devices are illuminating what we know about marine organisms that live at great Ocean depths.The information that pop-up satellite archival tags give aids in certain time of the year fishing closures and development of a marine protected area. This data is important to both scientists and fishermen because they are discovering that by restricting commercial fishing in one small area they can have a large impact in maintaining a healthy fish population in a much larger area.
The study of marine biology dates back to Aristotle (384–322 BC), who made many observations of life in the sea around Lesbos, laying the foundation for many future discoveries.In 1768, Samuel Gottlieb Gmelin (1744–1774) published the Historia Fucorum, the first work dedicated to marine algae and the first book on marine biology to use the new binomial nomenclature of Linnaeus. It included elaborate illustrations of seaweed and marine algae on folded leaves. The British naturalist Edward Forbes (1815–1854) is generally regarded as the founder of the science of marine biology. The pace of oceanographic and marine biology studies quickly accelerated during the course of the 19th century.
The observations made in the first studies of marine biology fueled the age of discovery and exploration that followed. During this time, a vast amount of knowledge was gained about the life that exists in the oceans of the world. Many voyages contributed significantly to this pool of knowledge. Among the most significant were the voyages of HMS Beagle where Charles Darwin came up with his theories of evolution and on the formation of coral reefs. Another important expedition was undertaken by HMS Challenger, where findings were made of unexpectedly high species diversity among fauna stimulating much theorizing by population ecologists on how such varieties of life could be maintained in what was thought to be such a hostile environment. This era was important for the history of marine biology but naturalists were still limited in their studies because they lacked technology that would allow them to adequately examine species that lived in deep parts of the oceans.
The creation of marine laboratories was important because it allowed marine biologists to conduct research and process their specimens from expeditions. The oldest marine laboratory in the world, Station biologique de Roscoff, was established in France in 1872. In the United States, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography dates back to 1903, while the prominent Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute was founded in 1930.The development of technology such as sound navigation ranging, scuba diving gear, submersibles and remotely operated vehicles allowed marine biologists to discover and explore life in deep oceans that was once thought to not exist.
Plankton are the diverse collection of organisms found in water that are unable to propel themselves against a current. The individual organisms constituting plankton are called plankters. In the ocean, they provide a crucial source of food to many small and large aquatic organisms, such as bivalves, fish and whales.
A coral reef is an underwater ecosystem characterized by reef-building corals. Reefs are formed of colonies of coral polyps held together by calcium carbonate. Most coral reefs are built from stony corals, whose polyps cluster in groups.
The benthic zone is the ecological region at the lowest level of a body of water such as an ocean, lake, or stream, including the sediment surface and some sub-surface layers. Organisms living in this zone are called benthos and include microorganisms as well as larger invertebrates, such as crustaceans and polychaetes. Organisms here generally live in close relationship with the substrate and many are permanently attached to the bottom. The benthic boundary layer, which includes the bottom layer of water and the uppermost layer of sediment directly influenced by the overlying water, is an integral part of the benthic zone, as it greatly influences the biological activity that takes place there. Examples of contact soil layers include sand bottoms, rocky outcrops, coral, and bay mud.
Kelp forests are under water areas with a high density of kelp, which covers a large part of the world's coastlines. They are recognized as one of the most productive and dynamic ecosystems on Earth. Smaller areas of anchored kelp are called kelp beds. Kelp forests occur worldwide throughout temperate and polar coastal oceans. In 2007, kelp forests were also discovered in tropical waters near Ecuador. In context, algal kelp forest combined with coral reefs account for less than 1% of global primary productivity.
An aquatic ecosystem is an ecosystem in a body of water. They are contrasted with terrestrial ecosystems which are those found on land. Communities of organisms that are dependent on each other and on their environment live in aquatic ecosystems. The two main types of aquatic ecosystems are marine ecosystems and freshwater ecosystems. Freshwater ecosystems may be Lentic ; lotic ; and wetlands.
Marine conservation, also known as ocean conservation, is the protection and preservation of ecosystems in oceans and seas through planned management in order to prevent the over-exploitation of these resources. Marine conservation is informed by the study of marine plants and animal resources and ecosystem functions and is driven by response to the manifested negative effects seen in the environment such as species loss, habitat degradation and changes in ecosystem functions and focuses on limiting human-caused damage to marine ecosystems, restoring damaged marine ecosystems, and preserving vulnerable species and ecosystems of the marine life. Marine conservation is a relatively new discipline which has developed as a response to biological issues such as extinction and marine habitats change.
Marine ecosystems are the largest of Earth's aquatic ecosystems and exist in waters that have a high salt content. These systems contrast with freshwater ecosystems, which have a lower salt content. Marine waters cover more than 70% of the surface of the Earth and account for more than 97% of Earth's water supply and 90% of habitable space on Earth. Seawater has an average salinity of 35 parts per thousand of water. Actual salinity varies among different marine ecosystems. Marine ecosystems can be divided into many zones depending upon water depth and shoreline features. The oceanic zone is the vast open part of the ocean where animals such as whales, sharks, and tuna live. The benthic zone consists of substrates below water where many invertebrates live. The intertidal zone is the area between high and low tides. Other near-shore (neritic) zones can include mudflats, seagrass meadows, mangroves, rocky intertidal systems, salt marshes, coral reefs, lagoons. In the deep water, hydrothermal vents may occur where chemosynthetic sulfur bacteria form the base of the food web.
Marine larval ecology is the study of the factors influencing dispersing larvae, which many marine invertebrates and fishes have. Marine animals with a larva typically release many larvae into the water column, where the larvae develop before metamorphosing into adults.
A standing crop is the total biomass of the living organisms present in a given environment. This includes both natural ecosystems and agriculture.
The habitat of deep-water corals, also known as cold-water corals, extends to deeper, darker parts of the oceans than tropical corals, ranging from near the surface to the abyss, beyond 2,000 metres (6,600 ft) where water temperatures may be as cold as 4 °C (39 °F). Deep-water corals belong to the Phylum Cnidaria and are most often stony corals, but also include black and thorny corals and soft corals including the Gorgonians. Like tropical corals, they provide habitat to other species, but deep-water corals do not require zooxanthellae to survive.
A wild fishery is a natural body of water with a sizeable free-ranging fish or other aquatic animal population that can be harvested for its commercial value. Wild fisheries can be marine (saltwater) or lacustrine/riverine (freshwater), and rely heavily on the carrying capacity of the local aquatic ecosystem.
Aquatic science is the study of the various bodies of water that make up our planet including oceanic and freshwater environments. Aquatic scientists study the movement of water, the chemistry of water, aquatic organisms, aquatic ecosystems, the movement of materials in and out of aquatic ecosystems, and the use of water by humans, among other things. Aquatic scientists examine current processes as well as historic processes, and the water bodies that they study can range from tiny areas measured in millimeters to full oceans. Moreover, aquatic scientists work in Interdisciplinary groups. For example, a physical oceanographer might work with a biological oceanographer to understand how physical processes, such as tropical cyclones or rip currents, affect organisms in the Atlantic Ocean. Chemists and biologists, on the other hand, might work together to see how the chemical makeup of a certain body of water affects the plants and animals that reside there. Aquatic scientists can work to tackle global problems such as global oceanic change and local problems, such as trying to understand why a drinking water supply in a certain area is polluted.
Ocean deoxygenation is the reduction of the oxygen content of the oceans due to human activities as a consequence of anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide and eutrophication driven excess production. It is manifest in the increasing number of coastal and estuarine hypoxic areas, or dead zones, and the expansion of oxygen minimum zones in the world's oceans. The decrease in oxygen content of the oceans has been fairly rapid and poses a threat to all aerobic marine life, as well as to people who depend on marine life for nutrition or livelihood.
Hotspot Ecosystem Research and Man's Impact On European Seas (HERMIONE) is an international multidisciplinary project, started in April 2009, that studies deep-sea ecosystems. HERMIONE scientists study the distribution of hotspot ecosystems, how they function and how they interconnect, partially in the context of how these ecosystems are being affected by climate change and impacted by humans through overfishing, resource extraction, seabed installations and pollution. Major aims of the project are to understand how humans are affecting the deep-sea environment and to provide policy makers with accurate scientific information, enabling effective management strategies to protect deep sea ecosystems. The HERMIONE project is funded by the European Commission's Seventh Framework Programme, and is the successor to the HERMES project, which concluded in March 2009.
Marine habitats are habitats that support marine life. Marine life depends in some way on the saltwater that is in the sea. A habitat is an ecological or environmental area inhabited by one or more living species. The marine environment supports many kinds of these habitats. Marine habitats can be divided into coastal and open ocean habitats. Coastal habitats are found in the area that extends from as far as the tide comes in on the shoreline out to the edge of the continental shelf. Most marine life is found in coastal habitats, even though the shelf area occupies only seven percent of the total ocean area. Open ocean habitats are found in the deep ocean beyond the edge of the continental shelf.
Marine botany is the study of flowering vascular plant species and marine algae that live in shallow seawater of the open ocean and the littoral zone, along shorelines of the intertidal zone and coastal wetlands, even in low-salinity brackish water of estuaries.
The resilience of coral reefs is the biological ability of coral reefs to recover from natural and anthropogenic disturbances such as storms and bleaching episodes. Resilience refers to the ability of biological or social systems to overcome pressures and stresses by maintaining key functions through resisting or adapting to change. Reef resistance measures how well coral reefs tolerate changes in ocean chemistry, sea level, and sea surface temperature. Reef resistance and resilience are important factors in coral reef recovery from the effects of ocean acidification. Natural reef resilience can be used as a recovery model for coral reefs and an opportunity for management in marine protected areas (MPAs).
Saltwater fish, also called marine fish, are fish that live in ocean water. Saltwater fish can swim and live alone or in a large group called a school.
Compared to terrestrial environments, marine environments have biomass pyramids which are inverted at the base. In particular, the biomass of consumers is larger than the biomass of primary producers. This happens because the ocean's primary producers are tiny phytoplankton which grow and reproduce rapidly, so a small mass can have a fast rate of primary production. In contrast, many significant terrestrial primary producers, such as mature forests, grow and reproduce slowly, so a much larger mass is needed to achieve the same rate of primary production.
Human activities affect marine life and marine habitats through overfishing, habitat loss, the introduction of invasive species, ocean pollution, ocean acidification and ocean warming. These impact marine ecosystems and food webs and may result in consequences as yet unrecognised for the biodiversity and continuation of marine life forms.
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