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Decomposers of The Ocean – Zones – Types

by Ayu Mesdya

Decomposers of the ocean is in the fifth place in an ecological food chain. The first chain begins with the largest predatory; shark and then fish continue down to small fish and then smallest poly and coral life. Before we explain more about decomposers we must know first about the energy of pyramid. The energy of pyramid have six levels, they are.

1. Primary Producers

Primary is the base of food pyramid, in the ocean there’re three primary :

a. Photosyntetic Plants

Phytoplankton is a microscopic, floating plants that live in the sunlight layer of ocean. Nearly half of the photosynthesis on our planet is carried out in the oceans by unicellular organisms called phytoplankton. Photosynthetic organisms examples like seaweed, zooxanthellae (algae living in coral tissue), and turf algae.

b. Chemosyntetic Bacteria

Chemosyntetic use the energy released by inorganic chemical reactions to produce food. Chemosyntetic is at the heart of deep sea, sustaining life in darkness, where sunlight doesn’t penetrate. Chemosynthetic bacterial communities have been found in hot springs on land and on the seafloor around hydrothermal vents, cold seeps, whale carcasses, and sunken ships.

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c. Detritus

Detritus is material from the decomposition of dead marine organisms. It often settles on the ocean bottom, where it provides an important food source for scavengers such as brittle stars, sea cucumbers, and amphipods.

2. Primary Consumers

Primary consumers are the second level in the food chain, feeding off of producers  like phytoplankton. Examples; crab, the crab is a primary consumer because it eats seaweed, clown fish, a clownfish will feed on the leftovers of a fish on the anemone in which it lives.

3. Secondary Consumers

Secondary consumers are the third level in the food chain and they eat primary consumers. In these the animals are carnivorous. Like a Barracuda is a predatory sea fish, it has a long body and protruding jaws and teeth. Also goatfish and wrasses they eat everything from snails and worms.

4. Tertiary Consumers

Tertiary consumers are the fourth level in the food chain. Tertiary consumers are the organisms that eat the secondary consumers, primary consumers and sometimes producers. Tertiary consumers are snappers, sharks and dolphins. They are at the top of the food chain. Their feast includes other fish, crustaceans, and even octopi.

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5. Decomposers

It’s time to tell now about  descomposers after knowing all about others level. We know that decomposers are  the biotic or the living factors that occupy the fifth place in an ecological food chain. Decomposers are considered as “Cleaners” of the ecosystem as they thrive to decompose the organic wastes of dead plants and animals, both in water and on land.

Depending on the depth and availability of sunlight and temperature , the ocean is divided into different zones and this offers the presence of different type of organisms and the decomposers in each zone.

a. Intertidal Zone

Interdial zone is located between supratidal zone and the subtidal zone. When the tide is high it is covered by water and when the tide is low it is dry but not completely dry. In the intertidal zone most common organisms are small and most are relatively uncomplicated organisms. Because the supply of water which marine organisms require to survive is intermittent. Then, the wave action around the shore can wash away also  the high exposure to the sun the temperature range can be extreme from very hot to near freezing in cold climates. The intertidal zone  is a prefect habitat for many types of macroalgae. There is more sunlight on the intertidal zone and enough water for macroalgae to live here.

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Some brown algae live in the intertidal zone, species such as Ascophyllum nodosum, Fucus vesiculosis and Fucus serratus live here. Green macroalgae such as Ulva intestinalis and Ulva lactuca can also be found in the intertidal zone.Those are other marine life that live on the rocky shore too, these marine life can call  the discomposers in the intertidal zone. Here the discomposers  that we can found in the intertidal zones are  :

1). Crabs

Crabs live in the subtidal zone and are sometimes found in the rocky intertidal zone. Crabs move quickly by walking or running and they are strong swimmers. Depending on the species they feed on microalgae, dead fish, worms and mussels. Crabs work together to provide food and shelter for their family. Crabs can be described as “decapods”. This means they have ten legs. Their first two legs at the front are known as claws. Humans must be careful when they are eating crabs as the microalgae that the crabs eat may be poisonous to humans.

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2). Starfish

starfishStarfish these animals are known more scientifically as sea stars. They do not have gills, fins or even a skeleton. Sea stars have a tough, spiny covering and a soft underside. Sea stars feed on bivalves like clams and mussels, and other animals such as small fish, barnacles, oysters, snails, and limpets.

They feed by “grasping” their prey with their arms, and extruding their stomach through their mouth and outside their body, where they digest the prey. They then slide their stomach back into their body.

3). Sea urchin

Sea animals, marine life, sea ecosystemsSea urchins are the marine mammals, they belong to the group of animals called echinoderms. Sea urchins usually live in warm waters on the rocky bottom or close to the coral reefs. Sea urchins have globe-like shape of the body that is covered with large number of long spines. Bony plates form shell that provides protection for the soft inner parts. Color of sea urchins depends on the species.

Majority of species are black, brown, purple, red or green in color. Sea urchins are omnivores (they eat both plants and animals). Sea weed, algae, plankton, dead animals, mussels, barnacles and leftovers from other animals’ meals matter are usually on the menu of sea urchins.

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b. Neritic Zone

Neritic zone also known as the sunlit zone and sublittoral zone. The zone is a storehouse of many sea nutrients. The area is also rich in oxygen, this  making life easy for many organisms. The animals that find within the neritic zone are sea anemones, sponges, clams, oysters, scallops, crab, shrimp, lobsters, zooplankton, jellyfish, dolphins, and eels.
Dominant producers in the neritic zone are passively drifting or floating  algae, called phytoplankton. Most of the algal types included in the phytoplankton are microscopic. Next, the animal consumers in this zone belong to following three types :

1). Zooplankton

Zooplankton is type of plankton that consists of tiny, free-floating animals that can be found in Neritic zone. Most types of zooplankton have transparent body, brightly-colored, usually orange or blue body and most of them have long antennas on top of the head and elongated. Zooplankton are further divided into two groups. The group that includes permanent zooplankton is called holoplankton. Meroplanktons include the larva that grow into larger organisms. Tiny crustaceans called copepods, krill and larger animals, such as the jellyfish and the Portuguese man-of-war, belong to the zooplankton group in their larval stage. Tiny, single-celled, shell-covered zooplankton are called Foraminifera. Zooplankton with shells made of silica are called Radiolarians.

2). Nekton

Nektons are mostly fish such as sharks, flying fish, herrings, mackerels, as well as many others including numerous varieties of small species. Nekton also include mammals (seals, porpoises, dolphins, and whales), certain arthropods (larger crustacea), molluscs (squids), and marine birds (penguins, pelicans).

3). Benthos

Benthos are consists of crawling, creeping (crabs, lobsters, certain copepods, amphipods, other crustaceans, many protozoan’s, snails, echinoderms, some bivalves, and some crustaceans), and sessile organisms (sponges, barnacles, mussels, oysters, corals, hydroids, bryozoans, and some worms) along the sides and the bottom of the ocean basin.
That’s the three types of  the animal consumers in this zone, decomposers in Neritics zone are largely bacteria. According to Zobell (1963), the density of bacteria in sea water ranges from less than one per litre in the open ocean to a maximum of 10 per ml inshore.

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c. Abyssal Zone

The abyssal zone extends from 2000 meters to the bottom ,abyssal zone is the deepest, darkest part of the ocean.This creepy scene is the abyssal zone. Fish also exist at these depths. One example is the deep sea anglerfish, which uses a light attached to the end of its head to attract prey. Many organisms use bioluminescence, lighting up to attract prey and navigate the darkness. No green plants can survive in this environment, since there is no sunlight with which to make energy.

Instead, chemosynthetic organisms use chemicals from hydrothermal vents to create energy. Abyssal zone known as the home for many decomposers which feed on bits and pieces of dead stuff that sink down to the bottom. The decompsers that we can found  in Abyssal zone  are :

1. Bacteria

Bacteria are a type of microbe, or organism so small that it can only be seen with the use of a microscope. Each bacterial cell is very small and typically ranges in size from about 0.2 – 2 micrometers. Bacteria are incredibly numerous and are found basically anywhere you can imagine.  In fact, just 6 liters (1.5 gallons) of seawater contain more bacteria than there are people on earth. Bacterial decomposition is an important part of nutrient cycling, and bacteria can decompose dead organisms as big as whales or as small as other microbes. They break down organic molecules formed by biological processes, making the nutrients in these molecules available for use by other organisms, such as plants.

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2. Tube worms

Tube worms are  found in most marine environments from tidal zones to hydrothermal vents, in freshwater, and in moist terrestrial environments. Their bodies are covered by anouter covering (cuticle) made of tough but flexible collagen. It has brightly coloured  and most are less than 10 centimetres long, although they can range from 1 millimetre to 3 metres. Their food is manufactured by bacteria that live symbiotically inside each worm’s body. In return for their energy producing services, the bacteria are provided with a safe place to live and supplied with oxygen, carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulphide gathered by the worm’s ‘tentacles’.

3. Hagfish

Hagfish is an unusual sea creature. Its body is covered with special glands that can emit a sticky slime. In fact, a single hagfish can produce enough slime at one time to fill a milk jug. The hagfish is a true monster of the deep. To see why, one only has to examine its greusome feeding habits. A hagfish begins its feeding process by attaching itself to a passing fish. Once firmly attached, it then bores its way inside its unsuspecting host. Once inside, the hagfish will actually eat the fish’s flesh with a specialized rasping tongue. It literally eats its victim from the inside out. When no large prey can be found, hagfish will feed on worms and other small invertebrates they find on the ocean floor. Hagfish have a very slow metabolism and can go for months without feeding.

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d. Bathyal Zone

The bathyal zone extends from 200 meters to 2000 meters which the water temperature is 4° C (39° F). The bathyal zone is in permanent darkness, with only a tiny amount of sunlight at the blue end of the spectrum penetrating as far down as the bathyal zone. This lack of light is a primary influence, along with water pressure, on the creatures that live there.

Most fish that live in the bathyal zone are either black or red in color. There is no primary production of plant life in the bathyal zone, so all creatures that live there are carnivorous, eating each other or feeding on carcasses that sink down from above.  Examples include the hagfish which have rasping mouthparts for tearing flesh from carcasses, viperfish which have large eyes to detect prey and scavenging sharks, such as the frill shark and sleeper shark.Next, eel has thin and long body and eels are adaptable to the pressures of the bathyal zone.

The two most common species are the swallower eel and the gulper eel. Both have large mouth lined with teeth that are capable of accommodating prey much larger than themselves. The bathyal zone is also home to the elusive giant squid which, though rarely seen in its natural habitat, is estimated to grow to more than 40 feet in length. Last, the Crustaceans also known as decomposer in bathyal zone because it still provides an important food source for other such  as jellyfish or bottom-dwellers like the slimestar which sifts for organic matter amid the silt on the ocean floor.

See also: Water Snails Facts – List of Marine Invertebrates

e. Aphotic Zone

The region of  sea where no light penetrates. The aphotic zone contains no algae or phytoplankton, and its inhabitants are exclusively carnivorous animals or organisms that feed on sediment or detritus, all reliant on energy inputs from the euphotic zone, the topmost layer of a lake or sea in which there is sufficient light for net primary production. On average, the depth of the ocean in Aphotic Zone is about 13,000 feet (4,000 m).The temperature is nearly freezing and decreases with depth and the pressure is extremely high and increases with  the depth. The aphotic zone is divided into two parts, they are the bathyal zone and the abyssal zone.

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That’s all the information about the descomposers in every ocean zones, the descomposers are important because decomposers help release energy built up inside a plant or animal so that it can be recycled and then re-used in other organisms. For instance, when old leaves decompose, they create humus, a very fertile type of soil. This helps nourish the tree and keep it living. This is where symbiotic relationships derives from. A symbiotic relationship is defined as the interaction between two or more organisms, in which all of them survive off each other. We hope all this information could be useful and it will helps you to know more about decomposers of the ocean.

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