Ideas for Use in the Classroom

Introduce the map of extreme marine ecosystems by having students use context clues to determine what the relief shading in the ocean represents. Before delving into each ecosystem, review what constitutes a continental shelf and an ice shelf.

Divide students into groups and assign each group an extreme ecosystem. Have students use the map to identify any patterns in the distribution of their assigned ecosystem, such as latitudinal range, topography, or proximity to continents. Challenge students to extrapolate from these patterns as they predict the likely abiotic characteristics of their ecosystem, and then consider why these ecosystems are not found in other areas of the world. Have students use outside sources to confirm or revise their predictions and research additional abiotic features of their ecosystem.

Based on the abiotic characteristics of their ecosystem, have students predict what adaptations would be useful to the native flora and fauna. Prompt students to compile a list of native organisms and determine what adaptations enable them to survive in their extreme ecosystem. Allow students to share their research in a presentation to the class.

After learning about each ecosystem, hold a class discussion to develop a list of similarities and differences between ecosystems. As a class, refer back to the map to determine if the similarities or differences correspond to geographical patterns. Finally, have students synthesize their knowledge as they explain why these ecosystems are considered extreme in comparison to other marine ecosystems.



characterized by the absence of life or living organisms


all the different kinds of living organisms within a given area.


part of a continent that extends underwater to the deep-ocean floor.

coral reef

rocky ocean features made up of millions of coral skeletons.


the way something is spread out over an area.


community and interactions of living and nonliving things in an area.

hydrothermal vent

opening on the seafloor that emits hot, mineral-rich solutions.

ice shelf

mass of ice that floats on the ocean but remains attached to the coast.

marine ecosystem

community of living and nonliving things in the ocean.


underwater mountain.