The smallest ocean creatures in the world

By Stef Zisovska
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The smallest ocean creatures in the world

Stef Zisovska
 
Sexy Shrimp - Author: Brian Low - CC BY 2.0
Sexy Shrimp - Author: Brian Low - CC BY 2.0
 
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The world’s oceans are a home for countless marine creatures, and many of them are so tiny that we don’t even notice them. However, no matter how small these creatures and organisms are, they are as important for the ocean ecosystem as the whales and the other big marine animals that live off them. Just as we can find many tiny viruses and bacteria on land, there are even more of these small and microscopic creatures in all the oceans that surround our continents. Here’s a list of the smallest water organisms that everyone should know about.

Marine viruses

Let’s start with the tiniest of all the life forms on this list. Viruses exist in the seas just as they do on land. The smallest one measures 40 nanometers, and one nanometer is one billionth of a meter, just for reference. The largest marine viruses can reach up to 400 nanometers, but they are still too small to be visible to the human eye. The only way they can be seen is under a strong microscope. In our oceans, there are millions of types of marine viruses, of many different sizes.

Marine bacteria

Assorted diatoms as seen through a microscope
Assorted diatoms as seen through a microscope

Once more, just as on dry land, the sea is home to plenty of bacteria. They are a bit bigger than the viruses, but still not visible to the human eye. They are 1,000 nanometers long, but they are still too small for us to see them.

Algae

Serenity – Author: Christian Gloor – CC BY 2.0
Serenity – Author: Christian Gloor – CC BY 2.0

Most of the smallest plants in the world are found in the ocean, and the majority of them are single-celled green algae species. In comparison to marine viruses, these are giants, measuring up to 5,000 nanometers. Still, they are too tiny to survive for any length of time because they are frequently eaten by larger marine critters. With this example, we can see how the food chain functions in the ocean waters.

Dwarf Lantern Shark

Dwarf lantern shark
Dwarf lantern shark

You may be surprised to see a shark on this list, but this one is not the shark you think it is. The dwarf lantern shark is the smallest shark species in the world, also known as a dogfish shark. It can grow up to 7.9 inches which makes it look like a toy. The dwarf lantern shark is not threatened by commercial fishermen, and the degree of impact from human activities on its population is unknown.

Sexy Shrimp

Squat shrimp in anemone – Author: Nhobgood – CC BY-SA 3.0
Squat shrimp in anemone – Author: Nhobgood – CC BY-SA 3.0

Next on the list of smallest creatures of the ocean is the amboinensis or the sexy shrimp. These tiny dancing fellows are a favorite among underwater photographers. They can grow to 0.5 inches but are usually smaller, depending on their maturity. You might wonder about their name, but these shrimps dance with their tiny bodies, wiggling their abdomen back and forth just like belly dancers.

Juvenile Frogfish

Juvenile Warty or Clown Frogfish – Antennarius maculatus – Author: Silke Baron – CC BY 2.0
Juvenile Warty or Clown Frogfish – Antennarius maculatus – Author: Silke Baron – CC BY 2.0

Frogfish vary in size and color, as well as in size. Their size varies from one inch to 12 inches. They deserve a place on this list because of their babies, which are smaller than one inch and are really hard to find.

Nudibranch

Colorful Nudibranch Nudi Branch Reef Fish
Colorful Nudibranch Nudi Branch Reef Fish

Nudibranch is a shell-less mollusk, also one of the favorite creatures of divers around the world. There are more than 3,000 species of nudis, and they are all hermaphrodites, which helps them mate with any mature specimen of their kind to produce offspring. The mature specimens can grow up to 12 inches, while there are some nudibranch species that are a quarter of an inch long. They appear in many bright colors and are extremely beautiful to observe and to take photos of.

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