A Guide to Marine Life in the Gulf of Mexico

The Gulf of Mexico is an ocean basin that is surrounded by North America, namely Mexico, Cuba, Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Mississippi, and Alabama. The Gulf covers approximately 800 nautical miles, with almost half being shallow continental shelf waters. It is connected to both the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. The Gulf of Mexico is home to thousands of different species including fish, mammals, turtles, plants, and more.

Gulf of Mexico Sea Plants

Sea plants include seagrasses, marine algae, mangroves, and marsh grass. They provide habitats for countless creatures including fish, shrimp, bivalves, plankton, and other marine animals. Sea plants that are largely concentrated in one area help to stabilize substrate and reduce the effects of erosion. These plants also act as a nursery for many marine creatures. Lots of animals will spawn near sea plants as it provides their young with better protection from predators. Sea plants also act as a food source for marine animals such as urchins, who are known to eat marine algae.

Gulf of Mexico Bivalves

Bivalves are marine invertebrates and include species such as oysters, clams, mussels, and scallops. These species can be further classified as mollusks. Bivalves normally have two symmetrical shells that house soft bodied animals. They play a very important role in the ocean due to the fact that they are filter feeders. This means that when eating, they will draw in water, and filter out food particles. By doing this, bivalves not only get to eat, they help to keep the ocean clean.

Gulf of Mexico Corals

Corals are actually living organisms that have the important job of providing a physical foundation for life in ocean reefs. A coral is not a single organism, it is made up of many small, identical individuals called polyps. These polyps work in conjunction to form the hard skeleton that we refer to as coral. There are two kinds of coral, including hard and soft. Hard corals are the best known type, and typically have hard skeletons. Soft corals are not as well known and include species such as sea fans, sea whips, and gorgonians. Soft corals grow more similarly to plants.

Gulf of Mexico Plankton

Plankton is the most basic food source found in the sea and all marine life depends on it for survival in one way or another. Plankton includes both animals, called zooplankton, and plants, called phytoplankton. Plankton are tiny, and therefore not very strong swimmers. Instead they float in ocean currents. They are found in the largest quantities in coastal areas.

Gulf of Mexico Marine Mammals

The Gulf of Mexico is home to a number of marine mammals including several different species of whales and dolphins. Some of the different marine mammals that can be found in the Gulf of Mexico include:

Gulf of Mexico Fish

The Gulf of Mexico is home to thousands of different species of fish. From small to large, there are a diverse range of fish species that thrive in the Gulf. Some of the species that can be found in the Gulf of Mexico include:

Gulf of Mexico Turtles

Of all of the sea turtle species, five can be found in the Gulf of Mexico. These include loggerhead turtles, green turtles, hawksbill, Kemp’s ridley, and leatherback turtles. Unfortunately each of the turtle species found in the Gulf is currently listed as threatened or endangered. This is due to several factors include harvesting of eggs, incidental capturing by fisherman, and more.

With the Gulf of Mexico being home to thousands of different species, it is important that they are able to continue to thrive and reproduce. Ocean pollution including trash, oil spills, and other issues can have a very negative impact on marine life. Cleaning up the world’s oceans including the Gulf of Mexico will help marine life stay healthy.