Tag Archives: unesco ocean literacy

Life Cycles of Ocean Animals for Schools

Marine animals have diverse life cycles depending on their species and ecological niche. Here are some common life cycle patterns observed in marine animals:


Producing young by means of eggs which are hatched after they have been laid by the parent.

Many marine animals lay eggs that hatch then undergo a series of developmental stages before transforming into adults. For example, sea turtles lay eggs on beaches, and the hatchlings make their way to the sea where they undergo a pelagic (open ocean) stage before maturing into adults.

Learn more about turtle life cycles with our free resources


Give birth to live young.

These species nourish their developing embryos internally and give birth to fully formed offspring. Marine mammals such as shark life cycles whales, dolphins, and seals exhibit this type of life cycle. The majority of sharks give birth to live young too.

Learn more about vivaparous sharks and shark life cycles


Change of physical form, structure, or substance.

Some marine invertebrates, such as sea urchins, sea stars, and certain types of crustaceans, undergo metamorphosis. They start their lives as larvae, which go through a radical transformation to become adults.

Learn more about metamorphosis in sea urchins and sea stars

Complex Life Cycles

Many marine invertebrates, like corals and certain types of worms, have complex life cycles involving multiple stages and forms. They may have larval stages that float in the water column before settling on a substrate and metamorphosing into adults.

When coral polyps are sexually mature and their cells produce gametes (egg and/or sperm). The gametes are fertilized and produce a zygote which creates new cells and eventually forms a new coral polyp.

Planktonic Life

Numerous marine organisms, including various types of zooplankton and phytoplankton, have life cycles that occur entirely within the water column. These organisms often have free-floating larval stages that drift with ocean currents until they develop into adult forms.

Learn more about the open ocean habitat

Life cycles can vary greatly among different marine animal species. Factors such as reproduction, development, feeding habits, and habitat requirements influence the particular life cycle patterns observed in each species.


Example Life Cycles of marine animals


Turtles have an intriguing life cycle that involves various stages of development and unique behaviors. Here is an overview of turtle life cycle the life cycle of turtles:

  1. Nesting and Egg Laying: Female turtles return to land, usually the same beach where they were born, to lay their eggs. They dig a hole in the sand using their hind flippers and deposit a clutch of eggs. The number of eggs in a clutch depends on the turtle species, ranging from a few to over a hundred. Once the eggs are laid, the female covers the nest with sand and returns to the sea.
  2. Incubation: The eggs are left buried in the warm sand to incubate. The temperature plays a vital role in determining the sex of the hatchlings. Warmer temperatures typically produce females, while cooler temperatures result in males. The incubation period can vary depending on the species and environmental conditions but generally ranges from several weeks to a few months.
  3. Hatching: When the time is right, the hatchlings begin to emerge from the nest. Using their egg tooth, a small pointed structure on their snout, they break open the eggshell. Hatchlings often emerge together in a group, which provides some protection against predators. It’s estimated that only 1 in 1,000 hatchlings will survive to adulthood.
  4. Journey to the Sea: Once they hatch, the tiny turtles instinctively crawl towards the brightest light, which is typically the reflection of the moon on the ocean’s surface. This natural instinct helps guide them towards the water. They may face various challenges on their way, such as avoiding predators and navigating obstacles.
  5. Pelagic Stage: After reaching the water, the hatchlings enter what is known as the pelagic (open ocean) stage. During this period, they spend much of their time floating and swimming in the open ocean, away from coastal areas. This stage can last for several years, depending on the turtle species.
  6. Growth and Development: As the hatchlings continue their journey through the pelagic stage, they undergo significant growth and development. They feed on a diet consisting mainly of plankton, small organisms, and jellyfish, depending on their species.
  7. Juvenile Stage: After the pelagic stage, the turtles begin to transition into the juvenile stage. At this point, they leave the open ocean and migrate to coastal areas, such as estuaries and nearshore habitats such as coral reef. Here, they find shelter, food, and suitable environments to grow and mature.
  8. Maturation: The turtles continue to grow and mature over several years or even decades, depending on the species. The time it takes for turtles to reach sexual maturity varies widely among species, ranging from a few years to several decades.
  9. Reproduction: Once turtles reach sexual maturity, they return to the nesting grounds, often the same beach where they were born, to lay their own eggs. This completes the life cycle, as they repeat the process of nesting and egg laying.


The life cycle can vary among different turtle species. Each species has its own unique behaviors, migration patterns, and habitat preferences. Environmental factors, such as temperature, habitat availability, and human activities, can also influence the success and survival of turtle populations throughout their life cycle.


Teaching Marine Life Cycles

Our curriculum based Primary Programs give students the opportunity to observe live marine animals such as sea stars, sea urchins and sharks. This brings the learning experience to life.

Please check out our Primary Programs for more information.

Guide to Teaching Ocean Literacy in Australia

teaching ocean literacy principles

So, what’s all this about? What is Ocean Literacy? Ocean literacy is an understanding of the ocean’s influence on you – and the influence that you have on the ocean.

When we understand the ocean we can begin to comprehend how its works, giving us the information we need to take measures to protect it. Education is at the heart of ocean literacy and this is where we as educators play a crucial role in inspiring people young and old to want to take action and make a difference, transforming ocean knowledge into action. Here’s our guide to teaching Ocean Literacy at schools…

Who Developed the Ocean Literacy Principles?

The Ocean Literacy Principles were developed in 2004 through an international community-wide consultation, with agreement with hundreds of scientists, educators and policy makers. The original purpose of the campaign was to address the lack of ocean related content in schools in the US.

The fundamental aim of the Ocean Literacy Principles is that every human being should understand basic principles about the ocean by the time they graduate high school, thus creating an ‘ocean-literate’ society.

What is the Goal of the Ocean Literacy Principles?

UNESCO has set the following goal for the 7 Ocean Literacy Principles as:

“Ocean Literacy is included in curriculum frameworks of all 193 UNESCO Member States by 2025”.

What are The Ocean Literacy Principles?

 The Ocean Literacy Principles are:

  1. The Earth has one big ocean with many features
  2. The ocean and life in the ocean shape the features of Earth
  3. The ocean is a major influence on weather and climate
  4. The ocean made the Earth habitable
  5. The ocean supports a great diversity of life and ecosystems
  6. The ocean and humans are inextricably interconnected
  7. The ocean is largely unexplored


What Does Being Ocean Literate Mean?

 Being Ocean Literate Means:

  1. Understanding the essential principles and fundamental concepts about the ocean
  2. Communicating about the ocean in a meaningful way
  3. Being able to make informed and responsible decisions regarding the ocean and its resources


Are Many Australians Ocean Literate?

Studies show many Australians are very concerned about the ocean, with ocean plastic being the biggest concern voiced, then overfishing and other human impacts. So a lot of good work is already being done to spread the message that we need to act now to preserve the ocean for the future. Many Australians are ocean literate but a lot more still has to be done as the ocean needs our help.

Teaching Ocean Literacy in Australia

The basic principles of ocean literacy do not fall within traditional science disciplines, they instead focus on integrated science. This is because of the interdisciplinary nature of ocean sciences.

As teachers, it is our responsibility to educate children (and adults) about the ocean in a meaningful way. This can be done under the standard school curriculum themes. Our free primary resources can help you get started, or why not book in an incursion so one of our expert marine educators can teach the children about the ocean using interaction with our live marine animals. Here are some great resources to assist with planning.

Ocean Life Education Programs & Resources

Ocean Literacy resources – Australia focused

UNESCO – Ocean Literacy Teachers Area

Marine Stewardship Council of Australia

World Ocean Day – Plan Your Event

Why is the Health of the Ocean So Important?

The ocean covers most of our planet, it regulates our climate and provides the air we breathe. It also feeds us, provides jobs and livelihoods and is a tool for economic development, as well as being fun to play in! We humans need a healthy ocean in order to survive. So, the health of the ocean is critically important to us.

Click image to download PDF.

why we need a healthy ocean

Read our blog – 10 reasons why we depend on our ocean


Further resources


Ocean and Climate Literacy – Essential principles and fundamental concepts

UNESCO – Ocean Literacy for All