What is a marine habitat?

Current and tidal movement greatly impact a marine habitat.

A marine habitat is a body of salt water, with its shoreline and bottom all inhabited by various species of marine life. A marine habitat has several zones that are home to different types of creatures. There are shallow coastal zones along the sea-land boundary, deeper areas beyond the edge of the continental shelf, and the seafloor itself. Marine habitats are affected by factors such as temperature, tides, current, salinity, depth and vegetation.

Marine habitats include corals, fish and other underwater organisms.

The wildlife of a marine habitat can be quite diverse because the creatures that live there have adapted to the changing conditions of the ocean. While most creatures breathe through their gills and cannot survive out of water for long periods, some have adapted to living near tidal areas, where they can occasionally become temporarily stranded on land or in pools with high concentrations of salt. Other creatures generate their own light, which they use to navigate the darkness of the deep waters. Some, like sharks, have even developed electroreception that gives them the ability to navigate and find food through the detection of electrical impulses.

Changing waves can affect the ability of light to penetrate seawater.

The temperature of a marine habitat affects how marine animals adapt to it. Even small variations in temperature can have a profound impact on inhabitants. To maintain proper body temperature, most cold-blooded marine animals must consume large amounts of food so that they can remain active and maintain their body temperature slightly above water. In very cold waters, marine mammals such as whales and walruses have developed a thick layer of blubber just below the surface of their skin to help them maintain their body temperature.

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A marine habitat is also affected by the current. The current, whether from wind, tides or global movement, distributes food, soil and even eggs throughout the habitat. Large global undercurrents affect the temperature of a marine habitat. Currents can also affect the migratory habits of marine life at sea.

Light is another important factor for the marine habitat and the animals that live in it. Light is vital for photosynthesis in seaweed. The ability of light to penetrate water is affected by factors such as depth, waves, foam, plankton and particles in the water. Runoff, natural or artificial, can have a severe effect on the ability of light to penetrate deep enough to allow photosynthesis by marine plants.

The sea floor is another important part of a marine habitat. The sea floor, or substrate, can consist of many types of rocks and particles. These rocks and particles help determine what kind of marine animals and vegetation can survive in the substrate. For example, algae cannot survive in a sandy substrate, because they need solid rock as an anchor.

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