Marine Studies II

Course CodeBEN203
Fee CodeS2
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

    Extend your knowledge of marine plants and animals

    This course follows on from Marine studies I, extending your knowledge of a wide variety of marine organisms.

    • A systemic study of marine organisms
    • Begins with marine microorganisms, and moves through increasingly complex organisms

    This includes: Protists, Sponges, Marine plants, Cnidarians, Worms, Arthropods, Molluscs, Echinoderms, Non Bony Fish, Selected Bony Fish and selected Marine Mammals

    Lesson Structure

    There are 10 lessons in this course:

    1. Introduction and Simple Organisms
      • Terminology
      • Classification or Taxonomy
      • Simple and microscopic organisms
      • Types of protazoans
      • Ciliates
      • Flagellates
      • Algae
      • Bacteria
      • Plankton
      • Sponges
    2. Marine Plants
      • Terminology
      • Overview of seaweeds
      • Chlorophyta (Green Algae)
      • Phaeophyta (Brown Algae)
      • Rhodophyta (Red algae)
      • Marine fungi
      • Marine flowering plants: sea grasses, mangroves, salt marsh plants
    3. Cnidarians and Worms:
      • Terminology
      • Anemones
      • Jellyfish
      • Crustaceans
      • Worms: flatworms, ribbon worms, round worms
      • Segmented worms. peanut worms, giant tube worms
    4. Arthropods
      • Introduction
      • Characteristics
      • Prawns and shrimps
      • Deep water prawns in the atlantic
      • The common prawn (Palaemon serratus)
      • Giant red shrimp
      • Pink prawn
      • Shallow water prawns
      • Indian white prawn
      • Tiger prawn
      • Kuruma shrimp
      • Green tiger prawn
      • Peneaeus notialis and others
      • Barnacles
      • Crabs
      • True crabs
      • Hermit crabs
    5. Molluscs
      • Introduction and classification
      • Characteristics
      • Gastropods
      • Whelk
      • Bivalves
      • Mussels and oysters
      • Cocles
      • Green lipped mussels, common mussel, mediterranean mussel, and others
      • Pacific oyster, European flat oyster, Olympia oyster
      • Nudibranchs (open gilled sea slugs)
      • Cephalapods
      • Octopuses
      • Biology of the octopus
      • Cuttlefish
      • Squid: classification and biology
      • Oegopsida squid and other squid
      • Chitons
    6. Echinoderms:
      • Terminology
      • Characteristics of Echinoderms
      • Starfish
      • Sea Urchins
      • Sea Cucumbers
    7. Non Bony Fishes:
      • Lampreys
      • Hagfishes
      • Sharks
      • Rays
    8. Bony Fishes I
      • Introduction
      • Terminology
      • Structure and biological characteristics
      • Classification
    9. Bony Fishes II
      • Families within Oesteichyes
      • Mesopelagic fish: distribution, life historyand ecology
      • Clupeoids (eg. sardine, herring)
      • Tunas: types, life history, feeding, predators
      • Mackerels
      • Bill Fish (Marlins, spear fish, sail fish)
    10. Marine Mammals and Higher Animals
      • Marine reptiles: sea snakes, sea turtles, crocadylians
      • Pinnipeds (seals walruses, Seal lions
      • Dugongs and Manatees
      • Whales and Dolphins
      • Sea birds


    • Describe the variety and nature of microscopic animals which occur in marine environments.
    • Describe the variety and nature of a range of different types of marine plants.
    • Describe the variety and nature of a range of different types of cnidarians and marine worms.
    • Describe the variety and nature of arthropods in marine environments.
    • Describe the variety and nature of Molluscs in marine environments.
    • Differentiate between different classes of Echinoderms and selected families within those classes.
    • Describe the shared characteristics and distinguishing features of a selection of different species of non-bony fish.
    • Describe characteristics of bony fish, including anatomy, physiology and behaviour.
    • Differentiate between different families of bony fish.
    • Describe the taxonomic characteristics of groups of marine animals including reptiles, birds and mammals.

    What You Will Do

    • Draw a table to compare three different phyla of marine protists.
    • Explain the differences between sponges, krill and plankton.
    • Produce a table that compares the characteristics of the three different types of algae.
    • Explain the difference between seaweed and seagrass.
    • How important are marine plants to the survival of marine animals?
    • Explain features that distinguish different types of worms apart, including:
      • Flatworms
      • Ribbon Worms
      • Segmented Worms
      • Peanut Worms
    • Present a report on research on the Cnidarians.
    • Explain the formation of coral reefs. Why are they considered one of the most biologically productive environments.
    • Explain the advantages of the arthropod’s body structure compared to the structure of the less complex animals studied so far in this course.
    • Research the living environments of one local arthropod and consider how its body structure and feeding mechanism are adapted to its environment.
    • Discuss limitations in lifestyle and behaviour might be imposed by the structure of arthopods.
    • Differentiate between cephalopods, gastropods and bivalves.
    • Describe the feeding and defence mechanisms of two different molluscs.
    • Describe the advantages and disadvantages of the echinoderm’s radially symmetrical body.
    • Describe the feeding, breeding and defence characteristics of echinoderms.
    • Select 3 echinoderms and describe their method of reproduction.
    • Describe the sensory and behavioural adaptations that sharks and rays use for defence and feeding.
    • Discuss whether sharks deserve their reputation as maneaters.
    • Explain the main differences between sharks and rays, and the main benefits to these creatures of these differences.
    • Describe the relationship between a particular kind of lamprey (ideally, one found locally) and its host, considering who benefits and/or who does not, and why.
    • List three families of local bony fish.
    • Briefly describe the biological characteristics of three fish families:
      • structure
      • feeding
      • colouration
      • reproductive
      • defence mechanisms
    • Discuss the behavioural characteristics of the three families you researched:
      • territorial behaviour
      • migration
      • schooling
      • reproductive behaviour
    • Draw and describe the gills of bony fish, and explain their function.
    • Identify families of fish characterised by their habit of sitting perched on their lower fins.
    • Describe special adaptations of fish and other marine organisms that live in the mid to deep zones of the ocean.
    • List the most significant bony fish that occur in your nearest marine waters, and briefly describe their marine environment.
    • Research in detail 1 marine reptile and 2 marine mammals.


    A marine ecosystem is based on the same principles that apply to any ecosystem. Water quality is as important as air quality as this is the abiotic component by which most marine organisms (apart from marine mammals) obtain oxygen. In some respects a marine environment is more fragile because of this very factor. However, large marine systems have the ability to dilute impurities such as toxic chemicals or suspended solids. The smaller the marine system (i.e. tidal pools or estuaries), the more susceptible it is to disturbance.

     Marine ecosystems are often complex and dynamic environments in which many organisms are involved in many intricate and often totally unobvious relationships. It is due to this complex web and fragility that marine ecosystems can be subject to sudden and dramatic consequences as a result of changing environmental conditions. A prime example of this is the collapse of certain fishing industries due to a lack of efficient control over the fishing quota and practices. Overfishing of a certain species can be expected to produce this result, however there are instances of seemingly totally unrelated species being affected by the exploitation of another species.

    Fishing communities who are reliant on the productivity of these environments can also be adversely affected by the depletion of stocks. The economies of countries such as Peru and Newfoundland have been reliant on the income generated from their coastal fisheries. Overexploitation of these systems in response to the growing demand for fish stocks, places huge pressures on the sustainability of these systems to endure such demands.

    Another example (and putting coral reefs at very high risk of being destroyed in the 21st Century) is the consistent rise of global warming and its known effects on coral bleaching. Over the past one hundred years, the temperature of sea water in many tropical areas has been rising. Rising water temperatures block the photosynthetic reaction that converts carbon dioxide into sugar (a process carried out by the zooxanthellae – the microscopic algae that reside within the corals). The result is a build-up of products that poison the zooxanthellae. To save itself, the coral expels the zooxanthellae and some of its own tissue, leaving the coral a bleached white. The bleached coral can recover, but only if cooler water temperatures return and the algae are able to grow again.  This is an incredibly slow process however, and the rate of destruction of the reefs is far quicker than the recovery rate.
    The limitations that marine environments present to humans have made the progression of knowledge and insight through research a slow process. Our knowledge of marine ecology is still quite limited; there are places within the ocean that have never been visited by humans due to our own technical limitations. However, there has been a marked increase in research and discoveries in the last century due to technological advancement. It is, apart from space, the last frontier.

    Jacques-Yves Cousteau was born on June 11, 1910, in France and is most famous for exploring the world’s oceans. As a young man in his 20’s he went swimming underwater with goggles. It was the beginning of his long and devoted relationship and tireless efforts to explore and protect the world’s oceans.

    Seeking a way to explore underwater longer and more freely, he developed, with engineer Emile Gagnan, the Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus, or SCUBA, in 1943. This opened up the ‘wild blue yonder’ to all men. Cousteau, along with 2 naval officers, became known as the "mousquemers" ("musketeers of the sea") as they carried out diving experiments in the sea and laboratory. Using a boat called Calypso, and equipped with instruments for diving and scientific research they explored the seas and rivers of the world for the next four decades.

    Realising that it would take an organised effort to protect the planet, in 1974, Cousteau created The Cousteau Society, a not-for-profit, membership group. He launched a worldwide petition campaign in 1990 to save Antarctica from mineral exploitation. He was successful, the pristine continent having been protected for the last 50 years. The global reach of his influence was evident when, in 1992, the Captain received an official invitation to participate in the UN Conference on Development and the Environment held in Rio de Janeiro.

    Captain Cousteau died on June 25, 1997, at the age of 87. His fight for protection of the world’s oceans and his wonder for such breath-taking ecosystems is an inspiration to all.

    • Develop a framework for classifying and identifying marine life
    • By recognising broad groups that different types of plants, invertebrates, fish and other organism's fall into, you can categorise organisms faster and easier
    • Enhance work opportunities in marine industries - perhaps as a tour guide or teacher, or on boats or diving. 
    • A foundation for further, more advanced studies.



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