The ocean can be divided into several different zones. The intertidal zone is found on the shoreline between the high and low tides - this is the most accessible and best studied marine environment. Below this, the divisions of the subtidal range from the low tide mark to the greatest depths of the ocean.

The continental shelf surrounds landmasses, extending between 10 to 300 km, and includes all seafloor and open water habitats down to the continental slope.

Occurring next to the shelf are oceanic or pelagic habitats. The pelagic zone is in open water, and extends to depths of 150 metres. Beneath this, we enter the deep-water realm. The open water regions here are known as the mesopelagic (150 m to 2000 m), the bathypelagic (2000 m to 4000 m) and the abyssopelagic zones (4000 to 6000 m). The hadal zone is found at the bottom of the deep ocean trenches, including the Marianas trench at 11000 m. The benthic zone describes the seabed at any depth, and animals and plants that live here are often called the benthos.

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