Deep Ocean Conditions and Animal Adaptations

5 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


SWBAT specify deep ocean conditions and how animals have adapted to live here. Students will compare deep ocean animals to rocky shore animals in a future lesson.

Big Idea

How do they do that? How do animals survive in the deepest, coldest reaches of the earth. Travel with our marine biologists as we learn the deep ocean conditions and share how animals survive here.

Question for the Day: What is the deep ocean habitat like?

10 minutes

Connection to NGSS -

LS4 - Biological Diversity: Unity and Diversity

In this lesson students consider the diversity of animals in the deep ocean, noting similarities and variations in how animals have adapted to their deep ocean environment. In future lessons students will research rocky shore animals to compare animals in these 2 habitats.

SP4 - Analyzing and Interpreting Data

Students consider the conditions of the deep ocean, observe animals that live here, and express their ideas on what the animals have that help them survive in this other worldly habitat.

SP6 - Constructing Explanations

Students use observations and prior knowledge to explain what animals have in the deep ocean that helps them survive the extreme conditions of the deep ocean.

Question of the Day - What is the deep ocean habitat like? This question is on the first slide of the Deep Ocean Animal Adaptations power point

By starting science with a question, I am exposing students to today's topic before the lesson has officially begun.

I signal students' attention and ask them to read the question.

"Please, turn to your table partner and share your ideas." I walk around the room to listen to student conversations. I stop to discuss ideas with the students. I am paying attention to the students that do not normally volunteer information when having a class discussion. I plan on asking these more hesitant students to share first. I help these students practice what they will say, so they are prepared to share when I call the students to the rug. I hope this will help them feel more confident to share in the future.

After students are sitting on the rug, I call on preselected students to share their ideas. Then I open the floor for other students to share. Next I ask students to turn and share with a classmate any questions they have about the deep ocean. Afterwards students share their questions with the class while I add these to our KWL graphic organizer on the white board.

"A couple of weeks ago, we looked at a few animals that live in the deep ocean habitat, the aphotic zone. (Monster of the Deep Lesson) We have some of the More Monster of the Deep Projects in our room now." Today we are going to learn about the aphotic zone, and how animals have adapted to live in this habitat.


Dive Dive Dive

40 minutes

Introducing Deep Ocean Conditions

Pressure (Power Point Slides 4 -10)

"Today we will dive to the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the ocean. It is just over 11,000 meters!" I hold up a meter stick, "That would be 11,000 meter sticks lined up end to end. As we move deeper into the ocean, more and more water is being stacked on top of us pressing in all sides. Animals that live here have adapted to this intense pressure."

Slide 1: "Let's see just how deep we are going."

I click on the power point title which is linked to a video clip that shows James Cameron's dive to Challenger Deep.

Slide 2: "Even on land we deal with pressure, it is not water pressure, but air pressure. You do not feel it, because you have never felt anything different, but I want to show you evidence that air pressure is pushing in on you from all sides. Just like if we were in water, water presses in all sides."

I fill a cup of water to the brim, place a cardboard circle over the top, (the circle should just be a little bigger than the cup opening), then ask the students to make a hypothesis about what they think will happen when I turn the cup upside down. Then I turn the cup upside down and move my hand from the cardboard lid. If you have not done this before, I do not want to give away the ending. Try it out or  watch air pressure demo.

"So we feel pressure on the surface of the earth, what happens when we go deeper in the ocean? Raise your hand if you have dived to the bottom of the pool and felt the pressure on your ears?"

"Pressure in the Marina trench is about 8 TONS per square inch! That is like all the weight of an elephant standing on your toe, but really for every inch of you there would be an elephant standing on you. 48 tons is like 48 747 boeing jets stacked on top of your head.

I am using imagery that students are familiar with, they know what an elephant is and our school is close to a large airport.

"So, one of the conditions of the deep ocean is PRESSURE." I write this word on the board and direct students to write this word on their Deep Ocean Habitat page. Underneath I show students how they can draw a picture of pressure  to help them remember what pressure is like in the deep ocean.  Students write a caption for what pressure is like in the deep ocean habitat.

Drawing a picture helps my visual and spacial learners integrate the new vocabulary and concepts. Most of the students drew what I drew, next time I will ask for volunteers to show what they drew, to encourage students to develop their own concept rather than take on mine and to illustrate that there can be a variety of ways to depict an idea.

Next I tap on slide 2 to show the other 2 conditions, darkness and cold and ask students to write these words on their 'habitat' page. 

"We will take observations of some of the animals that live in the aphotic zone. Afterwards we will look over our data to see if there are any patterns or similarities on how the animals body shapes and size may help us understand how they deal with the intense pressure of the deep ocean."

"Marine biologists wonder how animals have adapted to live here. They observe the animals to give them" clues. We are doing the same thing as marine biologists!"

Slide 3: Gives another visual for pressure and if you click on the image an interactive to help students understand pressure. (The interactive link seemed to really connect with the kids.)

I explain how we will fill out the data page and check for understanding.

The data page is designed so that students are directed to consider different aspects of the animal, such as body shape, size, vertebrate, eyes ... to help students organize their information and to show them how data can be organized so that patterns can be seen easier, by noticing which boxes have the most yeses or nos.

I show students images of animals that emphasize how animals may look to deal with this intense pressure. I scaffold their observations, to help them look at different aspects of the animal, such as size or body description, no bones, squishy, (flacid).

As we move through the slides, I scaffold students' written observations, highlighting key words on the slides or writing phrases on the board.

I ask students to share their animals that they made in the previous lesson, if it can support one of the adaptations that I am highlighting in this lesson. 

Looking for Patterns in Our Observations (Slides 11 -15)

After I show these animals, I ask students to take a moment and share their observations with their neighbor and to look for any patterns in their notes.

"Are there attributes that most of the animals have? What can we tell about the size of the animals? What type of body do most of the animals have?"

Allowing time for students to share, reinforces the observations we made as a class, and to support students who learn best through peer to peer interaction. As students are sharing, I am walking around the room, scaffolding students to notice which columns have the same information. Prompting to students to complete the sentence, "From my observations, many animals have, don't have ...

"Remember when you sorted seeds and you described your sort, you were sorting by the group's attributes. That was the name of your sort. When we talk about about what the animals look like, we are talking about its attributes. These are the adjectives that describe the animals. Remember when Edward said attributes are adjectives?"

"Now that we have identified certain patterns about the animals' attributes, lets see if we can make a conclusion about how the animals have adapted to the deep ocean pressure. Your concluding sentence may start like this: Most animals ..... I think this helps them deal with pressure because ..... Think about what you would say, then write your conclusion on your worksheet. (embed). Afterwards you will share your conclusion with the class.

The sentence frame is on my power point.

I am interested in students being able to support their conclusion with their observations, some of their conclusions may not follow what I know about the deep ocean and its animals, but I also know this information is changing. I want to develop student's scientific thinking, the process of students connecting their conclusion to their observations and explaining it in a way that can be understood by others. Will I share what I have learned, sure, but not before students have shared their ideas, and it will be presented as another theory for them to evaluate, not as if I have all the answers and their explanations do not matter.

If you need to split this lesson into 2 days. This would be a good place to stop.

Absolute Darkness (slides 11 -15 )

I ask the marine biologists to place their hand in front of their face and to imagine that no light at all was getting into the room, so that they could not even see their hand in front of their face. That is the darkness of the deep ocean. Eyes open or shut it would be the same. Students note this condition on their 'deep ocean habitat' page.

"But even though no light from the sun reaches this far into the ocean, if you look out around you, you will see twinkling lights, almost like stars. Do you know what is making this light? These animals are bioluminescent, they produce their own light, through a chemical reaction, like this glow stick. Unlike a light bulb, that gets hot, bioluminescence does not get hot. 

"What attribute do all these animals have that help them in survive in a place where their is very little light? How do you think these animals use bioluminescence?

"Here come some other animals by our window, let's take some observations of these animals." I show images of animals with large eyes and no eyes.

"What did most of these animals have? Take a moment to think of your concluding sentence about how animals have adapted to live in a dark habitat. Most animals have ... because they live in a habitat that gets no sunlight."

This sentence frame is on the power point that I am using with today's lesson.

Food (slides 16 -20 )

"I heard some of you say that some animals use bioluminescence to catch their food, to lure animals to them. You noticed that many animals that live in this dark zone can make their own light." 

"We are going to look at a couple more pictures and take notes about what most of these animals have that help them catch their food besides bioluminescence."

I show animals that have teeth and jaws that can unhinge.

Afterwards students discuss and write their conclusion about how animals catch their food.

Marine Biologists Discover New Animal in the Mariana Trench!

10 minutes

Students Summarize Deep Ocean Conditions and Their Animal Adaptation Hypotheses

"Turn and share with your table partner, the deep ocean conditions that all the animals deal with. Then look over your habitat page and see if there is anything else you want to add. "

Afterwards I pull popsicle sticks to call on a student to restate the ocean conditions to the class. I write these on the board. At this point I touch on temperature of the deep ocean.

From our observations, we saw that even though the animals had to deal with the same conditions, they all evolved their own way to adapt to those conditions! Amazing!


 "I think there are many more animals to be discovered in the deep ocean. I would like you to design an animal that you think would survive in the deep ocean. Use your observations of the animals and your conclusions about what animals need to survive in the deep ocean to help you decide how your own deep sea creature should look like."

I pass out the worksheet for their deep ocean animal design.

"Your diagram should have labels that explain how your creature has adapted to the intense pressure and darkness of the aphotic zone and what helps it catch its prey."

I walk around the room to help students get started. I do not expect them to finish this part of the lesson at this time. I will plan time later in the week for them to finish their picture. These will be displayed in the classroom windows.