The oceans on our planet cover approximately 70% of the Earth. The water that covers our planet is essential to life on our planet. From space the Earth looks like a blue ball partly covered with white wispy clouds. Below are a number of links to pages on this website about the seas and life that lives there.
Great Barrier Reefs
Astronauts are able to see the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia from space. This giant structure was created by animals about the size of a pencil eraser. The Great Barrier Reefs off the coast of Australia are one of the seven great wonders of the natural world. Find out more about this World Heritage Site.
Looking at Planet Earth from space, NOAA
Mid Atlantic Ridge
The Mid Atlantic Ridge is a divergent plate boundary where continental plates are moving apart down the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. The ridge separates the North American Plate and the Eurasian Plate in the North Atlantic Ocean. Iceland sits on the Mid Atlantic Ridge.
Viperfish are one of the fiercest predators living in the deep ocean. Find out how they attract their prey with a “fishing lure” and impale their prey with fang-like teeth. There are over 5000 species of this tiny predator that live deep beneath the ocean’s surface.
Oceanographers divide the oceans into oceanic zones. Specialist study animals that live in the different zones. Most ocean life lives in one specific zone. Marine biologists have discovered some animals, whales, can dive to great depths to hunt for food. Female humpback whales are known to dive thousands of feet to look for colossal squid to feed on to provide nutrition for their young.
The 2004 Indian Ocean
The 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami lifted the seabed and moved it sideways along a 1,600 km (1000 mile) crack in the Earth’s surface. The Indian Plate also slipped beneath the Burma Plate during the earthquake. This was the deadliest tsunami known to occur on our planet. The killer waves swept across the Indian Ocean destroying towns and villages thousands of miles from where the earthquake occurred.
Rift valleys are not caused by erosion but are created by tectonic activity. These valleys form when oceanic plates are moving in different directions forming a divergent boundary. Rift valleys run down the ocean floors where crustal plates are separating. They would look like seams on a baseball from space if all the water on our planet suddenly disappeared. Rift valleys are also thinning the crusts of the continents forming rift valleys that may become seas in the distant future.
Marine sponges are sessile animals that look like plants. Some sponges have been found living on the ocean floors that are over 8,800 meters (5.5 miles) deep. These animals are being studied by pharmaceutical companies because they create compounds that may be used in the future to fight a variety of diseases including cancer.
Caribbean Spiny Lobsters
Caribbean spiny lobsters are found in tropical and sub-tropical waters. They are also known as Florida spiny lobsters and are famous for their migration each year into deeper waters. They are also caught by fishermen for their tails. If you have ever eaten lobster tails you probably were probably eating a Caribbean spiny lobster.
Rogue waves for centuries were believed to be tall tales sailors told during shore leave. They said waves rose out of the sea as a vertical wall of water that crashed into a ship without warning. Today instruments have detected these waves and a Deadliest Catch film series about catching crabs in Alaska was filmed by a photographer while filming the series.
Ghost crabs live on beaches in tropical and sub-tropical regions. They are found along beaches from Rhode Island south to Brazil. They only need to wet their gills to live on land. These tiny crustaceans begin life as larvae in the ocean and then come ashore to live their adult life on the beaches where they build elaborate burrows.
Black smokers (hydrothermal vents) were discovered by scientists aboard the Alvin in 1977. Prior to discovering an entire ecosystem living around the chimneys scientists believed that all living plants and animals needed sunlight to survive. They found that bacteria were able to use sulfides flowing out of the vents to live and they are the base of the food chain in this ecosystem.
The Oceans unit covers the animals and plants that live in the oceans on our planet. The section on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and the Black Smokers includes information on plate tectonics.