Tide pool ecosystems

Tide pool ecosystem

As their name suggests, tide pools are found on rocky beaches in the strip of land between high and low tide, called the intertidal zone. They’re each microcosms, or mini worlds, filled with an amazing array of fascinating marine life all competing for space and food.

If you examined a tide pool starting at the surface and working toward the bottom, you would see different zones, or layers, of animals—especially invertebrates—attached to the rocks. Near the surface of the tide pool, you might see limpets, then below them mussels, sea anemones and barnacles, and at the bottom, seagrass. In and around the tide pools you may also encounter sponges, nudibranchs, snails, crabs and sea stars—and those are just a few of the marine animals and plants you may find!

So how do we explore this amazing section of the beach without hurting any the plants and animals that live there, or the homes they depend on? As you walk among the residents of the intertidal zone, be careful not to step on them, and never pick them up off the rocks or lift them out of the water.

Overturning stones and shells may also disturb the creatures who live under or inside them, so gently and precisely putting rocks back in place—or even better, not moving them at all—will protect even more of the fascinating animals found in tide pools.

Other Invertebrates

Sea Anemone

These creatures can survive at depths of more than 32,000 feet.

Hermit Crabs

There are over 500 species of hermit crabs around the world.


You can see both warm- and cold-water corals at the Seattle Aquarium.

Sea Star

Sea stars don’t have brains but are still able to detect light!


These sedentary creatures lock onto (or into) objects and animals and include more than 1,000 species.