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15 Animals That Live in the Ocean (with Pictures)

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The ocean is filled with thriving wildlife and a large number of species most humans will never see in real life. The ocean is still a place of mystery, and scientists and explorers discover new species of animals every year.

There’s still a lot that we don’t know about what’s going on deep in the ocean. Of course, there are animals like dolphins and clownfish that we see in movies and on TV. If you’re lucky enough, you can even get close to some animals if you go on a boat tour or scuba diving.

Then there are animals like sharks, jellyfish, and sea urchins that always make people feel uneasy in the water. Something about not being able to breathe and the feeling of being in open water makes parts of the ocean scary.

Still, the ocean is a place of wonder, full of color and exciting animal life. Here are some of the most common, rarest, endangered, and other types of animals in the ocean.

1. Sharks

great white shark in deep blue sea with small fishes around

Sharks are the ocean’s version of the alpha predator. Sharks are at the top of the food chain almost everywhere they go. Sitting atop them all is the great white shark, a ferocious hunter that kills tuna, seals, and other sea animals.

Unfortunately, sharks occasionally attack surfers and swimmers. Though we don’t completely understand why they attack, most researchers believe the sharks mistake people for food because they usually flee after taking the first bite.

Over the years, sharks have been the inspiration for scary movies like the Jaws series and countless TV shows.

2. Dolphins

dolphin swimming flawlessly in the ocean

On the other side of the spectrum, you have dolphins, primarily regarded as one of the ocean’s most intelligent and friendly animals. Dolphins are actually warm-blooded mammals that live in the ocean. They communicate with each other and typically swim in packs.

Dolphins have saved humans from drowning, led ships into the harbor, and fended off sharks trying to attack people swimming. For these reasons, people love and admire dolphins.

3. Whales

whale under the blue sea

Whales are the largest of the animals that live in the ocean. There are, of course, many different types of whales. The blue whale is the largest, though those are rarely seen.

More common whales include humpback whales, sperm whales, and beluga whales. One interesting fact about whales is that many of the world’s most famous perfumes are made from natural whale products.

Ambergris is a very rare type of excrement that originates in the sperm whale’s intestine. People lucky enough to find chunks of this whale material can sell the pieces for large amounts.

It looks like a rock but is much different. Perfumers regard it as a treasure, and the rarity makes it a substance that’s very in demand.

4. Tuna

Group of giant tuna caught by the fish net

Tuna is one of the world’s most famous types of fish, even though most people probably couldn’t tell you what one looks like. People worldwide eat tuna in salads, sushi, and on the grill.

Prized tuna can sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars, so the tuna fishing industry is intense. These fantastic fish are very well-muscled and can swim at high speeds.

The next time you go to your local grocery store, try to count how many products you can find with tuna in them. You’ll be surprised at all the options available!

5. Octopus

octopus in the seafloor

The octopus is another animal that lives in the ocean, is very smart, and occasionally interacts with humans. You can now watch a famous documentary about an octopus and a curious snorkeler on Netflix called “My Octopus Teacher.”

People don’t often spot an octopus, even if it’s close to them, because they are camouflage experts. They can change color to match their surroundings to hide from potential predators.

Octopus is an ingredient in many Asian and Mediterranean cuisines. Unfortunately, you have to cook it longer because the tentacles are so solid and chewy.

6. Jellyfish

glowing jellyfish chrysaora pacifica underwater

Jellyfish are fascinating because they are one of the world’s most elementary animals. They can’t move and don’t have a brain, eyes, or other organs. They simply float with the current wherever it takes them.

There are small jellyfish and giant jellyfish. Some of them don’t have a sting, while the dangerous Man-of-War jellyfish’s sting can be fatal.

Many of them have long, thin tentacles that are hard to see in the water, so you have a good chance of getting stung despite being far away from any jellyfish.

Some people eat jellyfish, but you’ll usually only find those dishes in Asian restaurants.

7. Lobsters

Lobster under water on a rocky bottom

Lobsters are a culinary delicacy all over the world. Many people love eating lobster, and past farming practices led to extensive conservation efforts designed to keep the animal population healthy while staying in the food chain.

Lobsters vary slightly as you move across oceans and temperatures. For example, the lobsters found in Southeast Asia typically have spiny shells with smaller claws. However, lobsters off New England’s coast in the Atlantic Ocean have smoother exoskeletons and large claws.

Despite being regarded as a premium ingredient, lobsters are essentially sea insects. They comb the bottom of oceans, eating dead animals and anything else they can scrounge up.

8. Crabs

Red crab on the sea rocks

Crabs are another crustacean that people love to eat. Crab picking is a favorite pastime for families along U.S. coastlines.

These animals are hard to trap, which makes them expensive compared to other seafood. However, you can buy blue crab, snow crab, king crab, and Dungeness crab in restaurants and grocery stores.

The king crab is the largest of the crab species, and fishing boats risk their lives to fish them in the cold waters of Alaska and other frigid environments.

9. Sea Turtles

Sea turtle swims under water on the background of coral reefs

Sea Turtles are unique animals that live in the ocean. These large turtles can swim thousands of miles, though they prefer warmer waters in places like Hawaii, Sri Lanka, and the Philippines.

Their hard shells protect them from sharks and other predators, and they have exceptional instincts that draw them back to their birthplaces during mating season.

Lucky scuba divers and snorkelers can have fantastic experiences swimming with turtles because they’re gentle and glide through the water gracefully.

10. Krill

lobster krill swarm in sea water

Krill are some of the most important animals in the ocean because they are many whales’ primary food source. These look like small shrimp with transparent exoskeletons. They swim in large groups, so whales swim through and suck up large numbers of them like a vacuum.

There are over 80 species of krill, which underscores just how diverse life in the ocean is. Furthermore, they reproduce so quickly that their numbers represent a large percentage of total ocean life.

Krill typically swim deep in cold ocean waters. However, they swim to the surface at night.

In Mexico, a specific species of krill glows in the night by activating a gland that produces light. Researchers believe the krill use the light to scare off predators while they’re near the surface.

11. Sea Snakes

black and grey sea snake in the sea

The ocean is full of snakes. Many of them spend their entire lives in the water, though other species are amphibians and can live on land too. Unfortunately, some sea snakes are among the most poisonous in the world, so take caution if you see one swimming nearby.

An interesting fact about sea snakes is that they give birth to live baby snakes versus laying eggs as snakes do on land.

12. Starfish

blue Starfish in the seafloor

The ocean is full of interesting animals. The starfish is one of the most unique creatures in the ocean because they barely move and have very simple body systems. They don’t have eyes, ears, or any other developed organs.

These animals are invertebrates that live in shallow and deep waters. In many tropical areas, you’ll see starfish in different sizes and colors. They have five arms that are shaped like a star, thus the name!

13. Orcas

group of Orcas swimming in the sea

Orcas are some of the most majestic animals in the ocean. Their black and white patterning is beautiful, but these are adept hunters that can be very dangerous in the wild. They usually eat seals, and orcas hunt in groups using advanced communication skills.

14. Pufferfish

Pufferfish on a coral reef in the Red Sea

If you want to see something that displays just how incredibly biodiverse the oceans are, look at a pufferfish.

Pufferfish look like regular friendly fish swimming around the ocean. However, their skin is laced with tiny spikes.

When threatened, the puffer fish explodes in size to look like a round ball with pointy thorns ready to poke any fish trying to eat them.

A puffer fish is also venomous, which makes them even more dangerous. People in Japan like to eat pufferfish despite the risk. Chefs who want to prepare pufferfish must study for years to avoid any mishaps in the kitchen.

15. Manta Rays

Manta ray swimming close to the surface of the water

Manta rays are one of the most majestic creatures in the ocean. These large rays glide effortlessly through the water, often with several fish in their wake.

They’re hard to find, but you can count yourself lucky if you spot one on a scuba trip. These animals usually inhabit deep waters and travel long distances depending on the climate.


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