Just below the waves, we find an abundance of life concentrated in the upper layer of the ocean.
The sunlight zone
Epipelagic Zone | 0 - 700 ft (200m)
The sunlight zone is the only zone in the ocean where photosynthesis is able to provide sufficient energy to support communities of life. Below 200m, we will find no plant life at all.
The twilight zone
Mesopelagic Zone | 700 - 3,300 ft (1,000m)
GREEN SEA TURTLE
Green sea turtles can be found around the world in warm and tropical waters.
Coral reefs make up just 1% of the sea floor, but they are home to 25% of all marine life and have greater biodiversity than any other ecosystem on the planet.
Oceans cover most of Earth's surface.
THE DEEP SEA ZONES
THE OCEANS ARE DIVIDED INTO TWO BROAD REALMS; THE PELAGIC AND THE BENTHIC. PELAGIC REFERS TO THE OPEN WATER IN WHICH SWIMMING AND FLOATING ORGANISMS LIVE. ORGANISMS LIVING THERE ARE CALLED THE PELAGOS. FROM THE SHALLOWEST TO THE DEEPEST, BIOLOGISTS DIVIDE THE PELAGIC INTO THE EPIPELAGIC, THE MESOPELAGIC, THE BATHYPELAGIC, THE ABYSSOPELAGIC AND THE DEEPEST, THE HADOPELAGIC.
Oceans cover 71% of the Earth's surface.
More than 90% of the ocean's habitat exists in the deep sea.
We have explored less than 5% of the Earth's Oceans.
The light from the sun diminishes to a faint glow. There is not enough sunlight here to support photosynthesis in plants or microorganisms.
The creatures we find begin to increase in size as we go deeper. This is because being larger makes them more efficient.
The wonderfully weird Mola mola is the world's largest bony fish. To move its large, cumbersome body, it wiggles its large fins and steers with the crest-like clavus at its back.
The coelacanth was thought to have gone extinct 65 million years ago, during the great extinction that wiped out the dinosaurs. They were rediscovered in 1939.
1.8 m (6 ft)
They exhibit the phenomenon of Deep Sea Gigantism.
Many organisms in the Twilight Zone, including this lanternfish, use counter-illumination to blend in with the ambient light in order to avoid predators.
3.7m (12 ft)
The vivid colours of the Atolla jellyfish are actually protective. because most deep sea creatures see blue light, the deep red hue makes them practically invisible.
INTO THE DARK
The ocean's midnight zone is a region between one and four kilometres deep, where no sunlight at all penetrates the frigid water.
With no light, there is no growth of plants or phytoplankton - all animals are thus predators or scavengers.
The Deep Sea Anglerfish attracts prey using a bioluminescent lure.
Species that survive at this depth have all adapted in weird and wonderful ways for survival.
From large eyes to transparent bodies, creatures begin to appear far stranger than the life of shallower waters.
A LIGHT IN THE DARK
Bioluminescence becomes a necessity for communication, predation, and protection.
The midnight zone
Bathypelagic Zone | 3,300 - 13,100 ft (4,000m)
3,300 feet (1,000m)
An elusive creature, on account of it living so deep down in the ocean, that has rarely been observed in the wild. It is the world's longest bony fish, reaching a length of 56 feet (17 meters).
Abyssopelagic Zone | 13,100 - 19,700 ft (6,000m)
Hadalpelagic Zone | 19,700 - 46,100 ft (11,000m)
Ocean's deepest point | 46,100 ft (11,000m)
7,550 feet (2,300m)
Though they may look like single organisms, these drifting translucent blobs are actually colonies made up of thousands of tiny zooids. The zooids specialise to fulfil a specific role in the colony, meaning each kind of zooid relies on the others in order to survive. It is a bioluminescent vessel of life, drifting in the deep sea.
3,900 feet (1,200m)
Great white sharks are not always found at these depths. However, studies have revealed that they frequent the midnight zone to take advantage of the surprising abundance of prey.
A FEAST IN THE DEEP
When whales die and sink, their carcasses — known as whale falls — provide a bounty of nutrients for deepwater creatures.
Different stages in the decomposition of a whale support a succession of biological communities.
Deep sea scavengers gather at these islands of nutrients on the otherwise barren sea-floor.
7,200 feet (2,200m)
The Greenland or sleeper shark is the most eery-looking deep sea wonder. With blind white eyes, and rough dark skin, they truly look like living fossils. They outlive all other vertebrates on Earth, with lifespans close to 500 years.
8,500 feet (2,600m)
Also known as ghost sharks, these deep sea fish demonstrate that the deeper you go, the weirder life becomes. With fins like bird wings, a large head, and dead-looking eyes, they exhibit a truly unique morphology that dates back 300 million years.
These beaked whales communicate and echolocate using a series of clicks.
INTENSITY: 230 dB
VISITORS TO THE DEEP
A sperm whale can dive down more than 2,000 meters and can stay submerged for up to an hour.
It is a skill that they must acquire in order to hunt their prey, deep-dwelling squid.
Ctenophores beat their shimmering hair-like cilia to move around.
AN OASIS IN THE DEEP
Hydrothermal vents are home to an abundance of unique biodiversity that has adapted in unusual ways to these otherworldly ecosystems.
Here, energy needed for life is produced by bacteria that convert dissolved chemicals into organic material via the process of chemosynthesis.
The Deep Sea can be a silent, desolate place.
Have some music.
This is the average depth of the oceans. But in some places, it goes deeper.
Beneath the Midnight Zone lies an even stranger realm of darkness and silence.
On the 14th April, 1912, the Titanic sank to its final resting place at a depth of 3,800 meters.
Patagonian Toothfish have antifreeze proteins in their tissues.
Temperatures are near freezing, and very few animals can survive the extreme pressure here.
Look familiar? This jellyfish swims in a range from 1,000m deep at the bottom of the Twilight Zone, to up to 4,000 metres in the Abyss.
The aptly named Fangtooth has been found as deep as 5,000m.
THE SEA PIG
Sea pigs have five to seven pairs of enlarged tube feet. These "walking legs" are hydraulically operated appendages that can be inflated and deflated to move around.
15,000 feet (4,600m)
Megamouths spend most of their lives in the dark of the Abyss, only returning to the surface at night to feed. They are filter feeders, and in order to survive in the deep where food is scarce, they grow to enormous sizes in order to become more efficient. This is known as deep sea gigantism.
Much of the life that dwells in the Abyss is Benthic or Demersal, meaning they live on or near the sea-floor. Many are well-adapted for such a lifestyle.
LIFE ON THE BOTTOM
The Tripod fish uses elongated pelvic and lower caudal fin rays to stand on the sea floor like a tripod. It waits motionless until it detects potential prey with its extended pectoral fins.
These fins then direct the food towards its huge mouth. This method of hunting uses very little energy and is ideal for a predator on the desert of the deep ocean.
This species of cusk eel has made evolutionary sacrifices in order to survive the Abyss. Its face is buried deep beneath the skin, making its eyes virtually useless.
More people have been to the Moon than the Hadal Zone of the deep.
Most of the Hadal Zone lies in deep sea trenches.
These form by 'subduction' where the Earth's tectonic plates meet and push together.
The deep sea is a lonely place.
The extreme conditions make survival difficult. Thus, life here is sparse.
But not impossible.
The Grenadier, or rattail, has an extended snout that aids in rooting about the bottom for food.
This flabby, translucent creature is the deepest dwelling fish on Planet Earth.
You have scrolled the height of Mount Everest.
On January 23rd, 1960, about 9 years before the moon landing, humans went where they never had before.
Two men, Jacques Piccard and Don Walsh, onboard the submarine Trieste slowly descended into the Mariana Trench.
Their goal was to reach the deepest point in the ocean. The Challenger Deep.
The submarine used a re-breather system that would later be used in spacecraft. There was barely enough space for both of them inside the pressure sphere.
The immense pressure here meant any mistake would result in certain death.
As they descended further, one of the windows cracked and shook the entire vessel.
But they were not deterred.
And even at these depths, they could see creatures in the dark beyond.
Amphipods can and do consume just about anything that falls to the seafloor, filling an important ecological function by recycling nutrients from even hard-to-digest material back into the environment. The hadal amphipod even has microbes in its gut that can digest wood.
Following 4 hours and 47 minutes of fear, anxiety and claustrophobia, they reached . . .
This page does not adapt well to mobile-viewing. You can either view the desktop version on your phone (find out how: iPhone | Android), or view an alternative page about the zones.