Open Ocean Biome: Plants, Animals, Climate & Definition

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  • 0:02 Open Ocean Biome Definition
  • 0:40 Plants
  • 1:09 Animals
  • 2:46 Climate
  • 3:30 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Derrick Arrington

Derrick has taught biology and chemistry at both the high school and college level. He has a master's degree in science education.

Seventy-one percent of the surface of our planet is covered by the oceans. It should be no surprise that the open ocean biome is the largest biome on Earth. In this lesson, we will investigate the properties and inhabitants of the open ocean biome.

Open Ocean Biome Definition

A biome is a large, naturally occurring community of plants and animals that occupy a major habitat. A biome includes both biotic and abiotic factors. Biotic factors are living things, such as plants and animals, while abiotic factors are nonliving things, such as terrain and climate.

An image of Earth.

The open ocean biome is the largest of all the biomes and consists of many different ecosystems that are linked together. Ecosystems found in the ocean biome vary greatly depending on the:

  • Average temperature of the water
  • Amount of sunlight, and
  • Amount of nutrients in the water


The main plants found in the open ocean biome are species of seaweed. They are only able to grow in the areas of the ocean that receive sunlight. This is because sunlight is required for the process of photosynthesis.

A picture of seaweed.

In the open ocean, there are hundreds of plant-like organisms known as algae. While algae is typically green, can carry out photosynthesis, and resembles plants, it is technically classified as a plant-like protist and is a member of the Kingdom Protista.


A great variety of animals inhabit the open ocean biome. They range in size from microorganisms that can only be seen with microscopes and provide the base for many food chains to the mammoth blue whale that can be up to 110 feet long. Sunlight can penetrate up to 650 feet deep in some parts of the ocean. Ninety percent of all marine life lives in the upper zone of the ocean that receives sunlight.

The open ocean is home to numerous types of plankton. Plankton are any animals, protists, plants, or bacteria that float freely with the current of the water. The plankton form the foundation of almost every food chain of marine life.

An image of plankton.

The open ocean is home to thousands of species of fish. Some of these fish can be found swimming alone, while others, such as the great blue fin tuna, swim in massive schools. This biome is also home to numerous species of mollusks, such as octopus and squid, as well as many mammals including species of whales and dolphins.

A picture of an octopus.

While it has been known for a long time that the upper regions of the ocean are bursting with life, it is now known that unique organisms can also be found at the bottom of the open ocean. Since light does not reach these depths, many of these creatures who live here are scavengers that feed off of dead organisms that have sunk to the bottom. Scientists have also found great groups of animals, such as large tube worms and crabs, that live around deep sea vents and are able to obtain nutrients through the process of chemosynthesis, where chemicals spewing from the earth are turned into food.

An image of tube worms.


The climate of the open ocean biome varies greatly, depending on location. Areas around the equator receive much more direct sunlight and therefore have warmer waters. Areas near the North and South Poles have much colder waters. Areas near the surface are also much warmer than the frigid temperatures found at the bottom of the ocean.

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