Scientific Study of Organisms in The Ocean

Marine biol­o­gy is the sci­en­tif­ic study of organ­isms in the ocean or oth­er marine bod­ies of water. 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. Marine biol­o­gy dif­fers from marine ecol­o­gy as marine ecol­o­gy is focused on how organ­isms inter­act with each oth­er and the envi­ron­ment, while biol­o­gy is the study of the organ­isms them­selves.

A large pro­por­tion of all life on Earth lives in the ocean. Exact­ly how large the pro­por­tion is unknown, since many ocean species are still to be dis­cov­ered. The ocean is a com­plex three-dimen­sion­al world 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 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) 30 meters (98 feet) in length.

The water was trip­ping over itself, splash­ing and hyp­no­tiz­ing, and I tried to fix my mind on a chunk of it, like each lit­tle rip­ple was a life that began far away in a high moun­tain source and had trav­eled miles push­ing for­ward until it arrived at this spot before my eyes, and now with­out hes­i­ta­tion that water-life was hurl­ing itself over the cliff. I want­ed my body in all that swift­ness; I want­ed to feel the slip and pull of the cur­rents and be dashed and pum­meled on the rocks below …”
— Justin Tor­res (We the Ani­mals)


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.
Ear­ly instances of the study of marine biol­o­gy trace back to Aris­to­tle (384–322 BC) who made sev­er­al con­tri­bu­tions which laid the foun­da­tion for many future dis­cov­er­ies and were the first big step in the ear­ly explo­ration peri­od of the ocean and marine life. In 1768, Samuel Got­tlieb Gmelin  pub­lished the His­to­ria Fuco­rum, the first work ded­i­cat­ed to marine algae and the first book on marine biol­o­gy to use the then 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.[9] The pace of oceano­graph­ic and marine biol­o­gy stud­ies quick­ly accel­er­at­ed dur­ing the course of the 19th cen­tu­ry.

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