856. Ocean Life

Look out into the water. The Pacific Ocean is teeming with life. Tough and adaptive creatures live in the tide pools; marine mammals swim in the waters just offshore. If you’re lucky, you might see a sea lion, seal, or otter feeding, or resting on the offshore rocks. Further out, you could catch a glimpse of a migrating whale. The water conceals the most extensive animal habitat – the sandy sea floor. Burrowing clams, worms, crustaceans, and stingrays live here, just beyond the intertidal zone. As you move further from shore, there are sand dollars feeding on plankton and other debris. Beyond that is habitat for commercial and sport fish, such as salmon, anchovy, herring, sole, and sharks. Just two miles from where you are standing, the ocean floor plunges 10,000 feet down. This trench, the Monterey Canyon, is wider and deeper than the Grand Canyon. During the summer months, the prevailing currents bring cold, nutrient-rich water from deep down. This feeds the tiny phytoplankton plants, the beginning of the marine food chain. Sea birds, whales and dolphins feed along the Canyon’s edges. In the dark waters beneath the surface, jellies, sea stars, giant squid, sponges, and soft coral are concealed.