Ocean habitats describe the five major bodies of water – the Pacific, the Atlantic, the Indian, the Arctic and the Southern oceans – that cover 71 percent of the Earth’s surface. The largest habitat on the planet contains 97 percent of the Earth’s water and approximately 50 percent of its animal species, according to the Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). This vast world underneath the surface plays a major role in climate and weather regulation. Just like outer space, though, the oceans contain many unexplored regions.
The Pacific Ocean, the largest of the five, borders the western coasts of North and South Americas and extends to Australia and Asia. It covers an area of approximately 60 million square miles and reaches an average depth of about 2.8 miles. A characteristic of the Pacific is the numerous islands located in it. Exploring the Deep Frontier says that the Pacific Ocean contains approximately 25,000 islands, ore than the the combined number found in the other oceans. The islands are visible manifestations of mountain ranges that start on the ocean floor.
The Pacific Ocean has the largest concentration of fish, including herring, sardines, swordfish, tuna and shellfish, according to Exploring the Deep Frontier. The ocean also poses lots of natural hazards because of it is surrounded by a volcanic and earthquake zone. The depth of the Pacific and underwater earthquakes produce tsunamis that reach the same velocity as jet airplanes. It also has the most coral reefs.
The Atlantic Ocean, the second-largest, is between North America and Europe in the Northern Hemisphere and between South America and Africa in the Southern Hemisphere. It sits on an S-shaped basin that covers 32 million square miles, says the Encyclopedia of Earth. It’s even larger if you count its adjacent bodies of that include the Gulf of Mexico, the Baltic, the Mediterranean and the Hudson Bay.
The Atlantic Ocean gets more inflow from rivers than the Pacific and Indian oceans. Salt content changes depending on location, with the waters near Canada having less salinity. The ocean floor consists of numerous mountain ranges, canyons, trenches and basins. The Mid-Atlantic Ridge divides the ocean into two deep troughs. The North Atlantic primarily faces hurricane threats.
The Indian Ocean, the third-largest, borders Asia, African, Australia, India, the Arabian Peninsula and Antarctica, covering an area of approximately 26 million square miles or 20 percent of the Earth’s surface. The Sultan Qaboos Cultural Center says the Indian Ocean connects the Old World with the New World because it touches the Atlantic Ocean, the Pacific Ocean and the Arctic Seas.
The ocean looks like a letter “M” when viewed aerially. It contains a lot of historically important bodies of water such as the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf, the Mediterranean, the Suez Canal and the Timor Sea. The areas of the Indian Ocean located north of the equator experience monsoons and, at times, the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian sea get cyclones. The Indian Ocean has the warmest waters of all of them.
The Southern Ocean goes by many names, including the Great Southern Ocean, the Antarctic Ocean and the South Polar Ocean. Sometimes, it is not even considered an ocean but instead an extension of the Atlantic or Pacific oceans. The fourth largest of the oceans, it surround Antarctica and covers an area of more than 7 million square miles, about twice the size of the United States.
Bodies of water located within the Southern Ocean consist of the Amundsen Sea he Bellingshausen Sea, sections of Drake Passage, parts of the Scotia Sea, Ross Sea and freshwater tributaries. The area has small icebergs. The area is home to 17 penguin species, whales, krill, squid and small fish.
Located in the Northwest Passage (US and Canada) and the Northern Sea Route (Norway and Russia), the Arctic Ocean is the smallest of the five oceans. It lies between the Europe, Asia and North American, primarily concentrated north of the Arctic Circle. The ocean covers more than 5 million square miles; however, most of it consists of ice. It experiences two kinds of ice packs – winter and multiyear.
Winter ice packs begins freezing in fall and thaws in the spring, according to the Encyclopedia of the Earth. Multiyear ice stays frozen throughout the year; only the surface layer of ice melts in the summer. Despite the ice, the Arctic Ocean has the same rich diversity of life as the other oceans. Phytoplankton grows underneath the ice packs and zooplankton float in the waters. Fish and whales eat these small life forms, and large animals like seals, walruses and polar bear eat the fish.
Though the oceans contain fish and other underwater life, each of the five ocean habitats have different features that set them apart. These habitats differ in geography, size and landscape and face different hazards. Because oceans cover the majority of the Earth, they represent the biggest undiscovered country known to scientist. What is known about these waters, though, have an affect on life above the waters.