How is life adapted to ocean habitats?

Lesson overview

Different species have adapted to life across the different habitats of the world’s ocean. From animals that can survive at 1,000 times the pressure at sea level, to those that live in the polar oceans, or thrive in mangroves, the ocean is host to a stunning array of life.

This lesson introduces students to the range of ocean habitats. It extends students’ knowledge of adaptation, interdependence, and biodiversity to the ocean ecosystem.

Increasing students’ awareness of ocean habitats, that make up 98% of the living space on the planet, is important for science learning as students move from KS3 / middle school to GCSE / high school, where the ability to apply existing knowledge to novel and unfamiliar contexts becomes increasingly important.

Learning objectives
  • List a range of ocean habitats and their features
  • Identify specific adaptations of ocean species
  • Link a range of adaptations found in the ocean to species and environmental conditions
  • Reflect on the interdependence of ocean species in the context of ocean conservation
Lesson steps

1. How many habitats? (15 minutes)
Students compare their knowledge of terrestrial and ocean habitats, using an interactive graphic to expand their knowledge of the diversity of habitats in the ocean.

2. Where does ocean life exist? (10 minutes)

Students take part in a quiz to see if they can identify the correct habitat for different species from adaptation clues.

3. How have different species adapted? (20 minutes)

This lesson step can either take the form of an independent research activity to identify the range of adaptations of selected ocean species, or students can complete a Student Sheet that allows students to demonstrate their knowledge of the type of adaptations for specific species.

4. How is the variety of ocean habitats and life linked to conservation? (10 minutes)

The final lesson step examines the link between interdependence of ocean species and conservation efforts, demonstrating the need to care for the whole of the world’s ocean.

5. Review (15 minutes)

Review learning with students. The final minutes of the lesson can be used to discuss any further questions that students may have.


The first activity on listing habitats is differentiated by outcome. Learning comes from finding out about new habitats, and from reflecting on whether the land list or ocean list is easier and why.

The second activity on matching life to habitats to adaptations reviews prior learning from the primary phase and most students should be able to complete this.

The research activity is differentiated by task as well as outcome. It can also be differentiated by support, by creating small mixed ability groups, although any assessment will have to take account of the various inputs of group members. More able students may wish to undertake a larger poster or digital output for this task.

The Student Sheet Interdependent oceans is differentiated with simpler questions first.