Coastal Habitats & Species—Ocean Animal Adaptations

Summary: The ocean is home to a variety of animal species, and each has structural and behavioral adaptations that allow for survival in marine ecosystems.

Concepts to teach: Adaptation, marine ecosystems, evolution

Goals: The ocean supports a great diversity of life.
Animal species are adapted to environments.

6.2L.2, 8.2L.1

Specific Objectives:

  1. Students identify the major natural history characteristics of a marine animal.
  2. Students describe four body structures and 2 behavioral characteristics of a the organism which help it survive in a marine habitat.
  3. Students share their finding with others through an oral or written presentation.

Activity Links and Resources:

  • Jean-Michel Cousteau Ocean Adventures lessons from PBS KQED – This website offers a variety of lesson plans focused on adaptations of marine animals such as sharks, dolphins, orcas, seabirds and invertebrates including:
    • Inside-out Adaptations—Students learn about the unique adaptations of sea stars and then research and develop a presentation on the adaptations of two other organisms
  • The Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport offers on-site lab classes, outreach programs, and classroom lesson plans for Grades 6-8 including:
    • Ocean Commotion (6-8)—Students investigate marine invertebrates from four phyla and how they’ve adapted to this rough-and-tumble environment.
    • Supporting materials for Ocean Commotion
  • Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport has a variety of on-site lab and field classes for grades 6-8, including:
    • Animal Adaptations—Adaptations of invertebrates living in tidepools, sandy beaches and estuaries
    • Squid Dissection—Anatomical and behavioral adaptations of cephalopods.


  • Students prepare a report on their findings of a particular marine animal, in which basic natural history characteristics are described and structural and behavioral adaptations identified.
  • Compare and contrast a marine organism with a terrestrial organism using a Venn diagram.