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Chapter 15 Animals of the Benthic Environment. Essentials of Oceanography 7 th Edition. Benthic organisms. Benthic organisms are those that live in or on the ocean floor More than 98% of known marine species are benthic

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Chapter 15 animals of the benthic environment l.jpg

Chapter 15 Animals of the Benthic Environment

Essentials of Oceanography

7th Edition


Benthic organisms l.jpg
Benthic organisms

  • Benthic organisms are those that live in or on the ocean floor

  • More than 98% of known marine species are benthic

  • The vast majority of benthic species live within the shallow continental shelf


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Benthic biomass closely matches surface productivity

Surface productivity

Figure 13-6

Benthic biomass

Figure 15-1


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Rocky shores

  • Most organisms live on the surface (epifauna)

  • Zonation of rocky shores:

    • Spray zone (rarely covered by water)

    • High tide zone

    • Middle tide zone

    • Low tide zone (rarely exposed)

  • Upper zones have mostly shelled organisms

  • Lower zones have many soft-bodied organisms and algae



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Sea anemone

  • A vicious predator cleverly disguised as a harmless flower but armed with stinging cells

Figure 15-4


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Sediment-covered shores

  • Most organisms burrow into the sediment (infauna)

  • Sediment-covered shores include:

    • Beaches

    • Salt marshes

    • Mud flats




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How a clam burrows

Figure 15-10


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Shallow offshore ocean floor

  • Extends from the spring low-tide shoreline to the edge of the continental shelf

  • Mostly sediment-covered but contains rocky exposures

  • Includes:

    • Kelp forests

    • Coral reefs


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Kelp forests

  • Kelp forests are found on rocky bottoms and provide habitat for many organisms

  • Gant brown bladder kelp Macrocystis has a strong holdfast and gas-filled floats

  • Macrocystis can grow up to 0.6 meter (2 feet) per day

Figure 15-15a


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Coral reefs

  • Coral reefs are hard, wave-resistant structures composed of individual coral animals (polyps)

  • Individual coral polyps:

    • Are about the size of an ant

    • Are related to jellyfish

    • Feed with stinging tentacles

    • Live attached to the sea floor in large colonies

    • Construct hard calcium carbonate structures for protection

    • Contain symbiotic photosynthetic zooxanthellae algae


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Coral reefs: Environmental conditions

  • Coral reefs need:

    • Warm water: 18-30°C (64-86°F)

    • Strong sunlight (for symbiotic algae)

    • Strong wave/current action

    • Lack of turbidity

    • Salt water

    • Hard substrate for attachment

  • Coral reefs found in shallow, tropical waters



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Coral reef zonation

Figure 15-19



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Coral bleaching

  • Coral bleaching occurs when symbiotic zoothanthellae algae is removed or expelled

  • Associated with high water temperatures

Figure 15B


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The deep-ocean floor

  • Characteristics of the deep ocean:

    • Absence of sunlight

    • Temperatures around freezing

    • Average salinity

    • High dissolved oxygen

    • Extremely high pressure

    • Slow bottom currents (except abyssal storms)

    • Low food supply



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Deep-sea hydrothermal vent biocommunities

  • Found in deep water near black smokers along the mid-ocean ridge

  • Do not rely on food from sunlit surface waters

  • Organisms include:

    • Tube worms

    • Clams

    • Mussels

    • Crabs

    • Microbial mats


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Alvin approaches a hydrothermal vent biocommunity

Figure 15-23



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Deep-sea vent biocommunity food source: Chemosynthesis

  • Deep-sea vent biocommunities rely on bacteria and archaeon that chemosynthesize

Figure 15-25


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Other deep-sea biocommunities

  • Low-temperature seep biocommunities are associated with:

    • Hypersaline seeps

    • Hydrocarbon seeps

    • Subduction zone seeps


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End of Chapter 15

Essentials of Oceanography

7th Edition