What’s in the Water?


“Must be something in the water… ”

Photo credit: Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez

In fact, there are TONS of things in the water; millions and millions of things. It’s no secret that most of the earth’s surface is water – somewhere around 70% of it – so if you think about the distribution of living things on this planet it’s no surprise that it’s all about water.

Most life forms that live on land or in the air exist at a fairly narrow interface; right there at the surface. You don’t find too many animals that dig that deep in the dirt or that fly that high in the air. If you take a look at the water you find a very different situation. Water is alive with all kinds of critters and they exist from the very surface to the deepest depths. When you consider this, it’s pretty easy to realize that the vast majority of life as we know it on this planet–is in the water. And the majority of living things in the water are not visible to the naked eye. We all know and love sharks, whales and their friends in the oceans, but critical to them all are the microbes.

These teeny tiny living creatures, or microbes, include the bacteria, viruses, fungi and prehistoric organisms known as archaea. They are responsible for 98% of the biochemical processes happening in the oceans, including producing over 50% of the oxygen released into the air we breathe. These little guys are the basis of life as we know it on earth and they are just now beginning to be understood. Until recently scientists were not even able to detect the presence of many of them.

Photo credit: Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez

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