"OCEAN PLANET" MARINE LIFE FACTS
These marine life facts come from the Smithsonian Institution's Ocean Planet
exhibition and from the book Ocean Planet: Writings and Images of the Sea, by Peter Benchley and Judith
Gradwohl (published by Harry N. Abrams Inc., 100 5th Ave., New
York, N.Y. 10011)
- The oceans contain 99 percent of the living space on the
- The blue whale, Balaenoptera musculus, is the largest known
animal ever to have lived on sea or land. Individuals can
reach more than 110 feet and weigh nearly 200 tons_more than
the weight of 50 adult elephants. The blue whale's blood
vessels are so broad that a full-grown trout could swim
through them, and the vessels serve a heart the size of a
- Hydrothermal vents, fractures in the sea floor that spew
sulphur compounds, support the only complex ecosystem known
to run on chemicals, rather than energy from the sun.
Gigantic tubeworms and mussels thrive in densities of up to
65 pounds per square foot around vents.
- The oarfish, Regalecus glesne, is the longest bony fish in
the world. With its snakelike body_sporting a magnificent red
fin along its 50-foot length_horselike face and blue gills,
it accounts for many sea-serpent sightings.
- Green turtles can migrate more than 1,400 miles to lay their
- A group of herring is called a seige. A group of jelly fish
is called a smack.
- Many fish can change sex during the course of their lives.
Others, especially rare deep-sea fish, have both male and
female sex organs.
- Oils from the orange roughy, Hoplostethus atlanticus, a
deep-sea fish from New Zealand, are used in making shampoo.
- Bluefin tuna, Thunnus thynnus, are among the largest and
fastest marine fish. An adult may weigh 1,500 pounds and swim
up to 55 miles per hour. Prized as sushi in Japan, bluefins
are also among the most valuable fish: individual bluefins
can bring as much as $20,000 at U.S. docks.
- Penguins "fly" underwater at up to 25 miles per hour.
- Since the architecture and chemistry of coral are very close
to human bone, coral has been used to replace bone grafts in
helping human bones to heal quickly and cleanly.
- Horseshoe crabs have existed in essentially the same form for
the past 135 million years. Their blood provides a valuable
test for the toxins that cause septic shock, which previously
led to half of all hospital-acquired infections and one-fifth
of all hospital deaths.
- Alginates, derived from the cell walls of brown algae, are
used in beer, frozen desserts, pickles, adhesives, boiler
compounds, ceramics, explosives, paper and toys.
- The remains of diatoms, algae with hard shells, are used in
making pet litter, cosmetics, pool filters and tooth polish.
- One study of a deep-sea community revealed 898 species from
more than 100 families and a dozen phyla in an area about
half the size of a tennis court. More than half of these were
new to science.
- Life began in the seas 3.1 billion to 3.4 billion years ago.
Land dwellers appeared 400 million years ago_a relatively
recent point in the geologic time line.
Ocean Planet Exhibition Floorplan
gene carl feldman (firstname.lastname@example.org) (301) 286-9428
Judith Gradwohl, Smithsonian Institution (Curator/Ocean Planet)