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size vs. abundance graphic

Sizing Up Sea Life

The ocean is full of life—most of it too small for us to see. Marine life ranges from bacteria and viruses, at nanometer scales (10-9m), to whales and other very visible animals tens of meters long. But the bigger the organism, the fewer there are in the sea. In general, creatures tend to prey on the next size category below them. Recently, however, WHOI and MIT scientists discovered that the feeding nets made by animals called salps catch much smaller prey than previously thought, including the some of the tiniest, most abundant cells in the ocean.

(Illustration by Amy Caracappa-Qubeck, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

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