Challenges and survival strategies

The deep sea environment has many challenges. Pressure is very high, because of the weight of water pressing down on the sea floor, and there is very little heat and light.

What are the difficulties faced by deep sea creatures and how have they adapted to live in these conditions?

  • A marine organism growing in the dark waters of the deep sea

    Below 1km deep in the oceans, it is completely dark. Find out about the adaptations that have allowed deep sea creatures to survive without light.

  • A satellite image of the Earth's atmosphere

    The pressure at the bottom of the ocean is many times greater than on the surface, and it increases as you move deeper into the sea.  How do marine creatures cope?

  • Arrowtooth eels, Synaphobranchus kaupi

    How do some fish and other sea creatures stay buoyant in the water while they are hunting for food? Find out here.

  • Waves breaking on the shore - seawater contains far more salt than most habitats on land
    Salt water and ocean currents

    Learn about some of the challenges to life in the oceans, including the lack of fresh water and unstable conditions caused by deep ocean currents and tides.

  • The tail of a whale leaping from the ocean
    Finding food

    Food is scarce in the deep sea.  There is no sunlight and so photosynthesis, and the production of new food, is impossible.  So how do deep sea creatures survive?

  • A photo of an iceberg floating in the cold southern ocean, taken from HMS Challenger.

    How cold are the depths of the oceans where sunlight never reaches? Find out about the range of temperatures in the ocean, and the cold deep sea conditions that marine life has to survive in.

Cartoon image of a hatchet fish on a museum pass

Until 1938 whale carcasses were buried in the Museum grounds so that their flesh would decay leaving only the skeletons.