Seagrass Adaptations: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Mary Beth Burns

Mary Beth has taught 1st, 4th and 5th grade and has a specialist degree in Educational Leadership. She is currently an assistant principal.

Seagrass might seem like an uninteresting sea plant, but it is actually very important in the ocean world. Come and learn about how seagrass has adapted to its environment in order to play its very important role.

What is Seagrass?

Did you know that seagrass is the oldest living thing on Earth? That's right - there is a patch of seagrass in the Mediterranean Sea that is more than 200,000 years old! While this might not seem that exciting (it's just grass, right?), seagrass is actually much more interesting and important than most people realize.

For one thing, there is just so much of it. Sixty different species of seagrass are in different ocean climates, from ice caps to coral reefs and everything in between. In fact, there are more than 2.5 million acres of seagrass in Florida alone!

In addition to there being so much seagrass, it actually has an important role in marine life. Seagrass provides shelter and food for about 70% of sea animals, like shrimp, crabs, turtles, manatees and even dolphins! Many animals use seagrass to hide from predators.

Some people get seagrass confused with seaweed, but they are not the same thing. Seagrass has roots and flowers. Seagrass also acts as a filter for ocean pollution, and it improves the quality of the water by releasing oxygen. Let's learn about some of the adaptations that this flowering marine plant has in order to 'blossom' under the sea!

A stingray resting in seagrass

Bring On the Salt

Did you know that an old-fashioned way of drying vegetables is to cover them in salt? This is because most plants cannot tolerate salt. Seagrass, on the other hand, has a very high salinity tolerance. Salinity is the measurement of the salt dissolved in water.

It would be impossible for seagrass to survive in the ocean for very long without this high salinity tolerance because the ocean has such high salt content. Seagrass is able to do this because it has a special salt tolerance gene. This gene allows the seagrass to have more sodium than the saltwater by storing it inside their cell vacuoles, which are tiny storage bubbles in the cell.

Salt water is no problem for seagrass.

Bring On the Waves

Think about how violent the ocean can be. Some of those waves are no joke! How is it that the seagrass is not ripped to shreds during high tide? They have one thing to thank: their rhizomes. Seagrass rhizomes are horizontal stems that attach to the ocean floor. It is kind of like when you are on a boat and you drop an anchor. The anchor works to keep your boat stable by securing itself into the group.

Seagrass is built to withstand even the strongest waves.

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