Creature Feature: Ocean Animals

From 2009-2012, National Geographic Education Programs was honored to receive two grants from Oracle totaling two million dollars. These funds were used to address issues in ocean science and geography, including the impact of human activities on the ocean and ocean conservation. With the help of Oracle, National Geographic Education Programs was able to create more than 500 unique ocean education assets (all available for free at, reach approximately 48,000 direct ocean users through marine recreation stakeholder workshops, expose 68,700 people to ocean materials at conferences, and integrate ocean curriculum into the education of 21,000 students across the United States.

As we “wave” (forgive the pun) goodbye to this chapter of ocean education, I find myself reflecting on all I’ve learned about the ocean over the past few years. Some of my favorite fun facts are about the weird ocean critters I’ve been introduced to. For example, did you know that polar bears have black tongues and black skin to help them retain heat in their cold habitat? Or that clown anemonefish (more commonly referred to as “Nemo”) are all born as males, but can switch their sex to become female?

Here are some of my favorite resources we’ve developed about some of the most-amazing and weirdest ocean animals. Use them in your classroom, with your family or for your own enjoyment. Happy exploring!

Face-to-Face with a Leopard Seal

Photograph by Paul Nicklen
Photograph by Paul Nicklen

In this short video, National Geographic photographer Paul Nicklen tells about his incredible experience with a leopard seal.
Spoiler alert: after watching this video, you’ll never look at leopard seals the same!

The Mermaid Myth

Photograph by Brian Skerry
Photograph by Brian Skerry

In this short video, National Geographic photographer Brian Skerry explains where mermaids come from.
Spoiler alert: it’s not what you think.

Why so Blue, Lobster?

Photograph by Justin Brooks
Photograph by Justin Brooks

This photo gallery is super weird and was inspired by a 2012 news story. When a fishing boat caught a rare blue lobster off the coast of Maryland, we asked ourselves, “What other strange lobsters are out there?”
Hint: This resource is great for kids.

Marine Ecosystem Illustrations

Illustration by Tim Gunther
Illustration by Tim Gunther

Grades 3-5

Illustration by Doris Dialogu
Illustration by Doris Dialogu

Grades 9-12

Coral and kelp and ice, oh my! These downloadable illustrations detail far-away environments like the poles as well as more-accessible sandy shores. Better yet, they’re beautiful and informative and free, OH MY! Scroll through the available illustrations, select the one you want to download and click the download button (the down-pointing arrow) in the lower right hand corner of the media browser.
Hint: Each illustration has a Spanish version available for download at the lower right hand side of the page.

For more fun ocean resources, check out

Written by Samantha Zuhlke, National Geographic Education

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