Benthos are the organisms which live on, in, or near the seabed, also known as the benthic zone. [ Benthos] from the Census of Antarctic Marine Life website] They live in or near marine sedimentary environments, from the littoral to the deep-sea.

The term "benthos" comes from the Greek for "depths of the sea". Benthos is also used in freshwater biology to refer to organisms at the bottom of freshwater bodies of water, such as lakes, rivers, and streams. [ [ North American Benthological Society website] ]

The main food sources for benthos are plankton and organic runoff from land. The depth of water, temperature and salinity, and type of local substrate all affect what benthos is present. In coastal waters and other places where light reaches the bottom, benthic photosynthesizing diatoms can proliferate. Filter feeders, such as sponges and pelecypods, dominate hard, sandy bottoms. Deposit eaters, such as polychaetes, populate softer bottoms. Fish, starfish, snails, cephalopods, and crustaceans are important predators and scavengers.

Benthic organisms, such as sea stars, oysters, clams, sea cucumbers, brittle stars and sea anemones, play an important role as a food source for fish and humans.

By size


Macrobenthos are the larger, more visible, benthos that are greater than 1 mm in size. Some examples are polychaete worms, bivalves, echinoderms, sea anemones, corals, sponges, sea squirts, turbellarians and larger crustaceans such as crabs, lobsters and cumaceans.


Meiobenthos are tiny benthos that are less than 1 mm but greater than 32 µm in size. Some examples are nematodes, foraminiferans, water bears, gastrotriches and smaller crustaceans such as copepods and ostracodes.


Microbenthos are microscopic benthos that are less than 32 µm in size. Some examples are bacteria, diatoms, ciliates, amoeba, flagellates

By type


Zoobenthos are animals belonging to the benthos.


Phytobenthos are plants belonging to the benthos.

By location


Epibenthos live on top of the sediment


Hyperbenthos live just above the sediment

See also

* Bottom feeder
* Pelagic zone



* [ "Benthos."] (2008) Encyclopædia Britannica. (Retrieved May 15, 2008, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online.)
* Ryan, Paddy (2007) [ "Benthic communities"] Te Ara - the Encyclopædia of New Zealand, updated 21 September 2007.
* Yip, Maricela and Madl, Pierre (1999) [ "Benthos"] University of Salzburg.

External links

* [ Benthos]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • benthos — [ bɛ̃tos ] n. m. • 1897; mot gr. « profondeur » ♦ Didact. Ensemble des organismes qui vivent sur les fonds des mers et s y déplacent peu. Benthos, plancton et necton. ● benthos nom masculin (grec benthos, profondeur) Ensemble des êtres vivants… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • benthos — life forms of the deep ocean and sea floor, 1891, coined by Haeckel from Gk. benthos depth of the sea, related to bathos depth, bathys deep, of unknown origin. Adjective benthic is attested from 1902 …   Etymology dictionary

  • Benthos — Ben thos (b[e^]n th[o^]s), n. [NL., fr. Gr. be nqos depth of the sea.] The bottom of the sea, esp. of the deep oceans; hence (Bot. & Zo[ o]l.), the fauna and flora of the sea bottom; opposed to {plankton}. [Webster 1913 Suppl.] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Benthos — (griech., »Tiefe, Meerestiefe«), nach Haeckel die Gesamtheit derjenigen wasserbewohnenden Lebewesen, die im Gegensatze zu dem in verschiedenen Tiefen frei schwebenden Plankton (s. d.) am Grunde festgeheftet sind oder sich auf dem Grunde kriechend …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • benthos — [ben′thäs΄] n. [ModL < Gr, depth of the sea; akin to bathos: see BATHY ] all the plants and animals living on or closely associated with the bottom of a body of water, esp. the ocean benthic [ben′thik] adj. benthonic [ben′thän′ik] …   English World dictionary

  • Benthos — Einige typische limnische Benthonten Meeres …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Benthos — Exemples d organismes benthiques Le benthos est l ensemble des organismes aquatiques (marins ou dulcicoles) vivant à proximité du fond des mers et océans, des lacs et cours d eau. Par opposition, on parle de pélagos (constitué du plancton et du… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • benthos — /ben thos/, n. the biogeographic region that includes the bottom of a lake, sea, or ocean, and the littoral and supralittoral zones of the shore. Also called benthic division, benthonic zone. [1890 95; < Gk bénthos depth (of the sea); akin to… …   Universalium

  • Benthos — Bẹn|thos 〈n.; s; unz.〉 Tier u. Pflanzenwelt auf dem Boden von Gewässern [<grch. benthos „Tiefe“] * * * Bẹn|thos, das; [griech. bénthos = Tiefe] (Biol.): Gesamtheit der über, auf od. im Grund od. im Uferbereich von Gewässern lebenden… …   Universal-Lexikon

  • Benthos — bentosas statusas T sritis ekologija ir aplinkotyra apibrėžtis Organizmų (fitobentoso ir zoobentoso), gyvenančių vandens telkinių dugne, visuma. atitikmenys: angl. benthos vok. Benthon, n; Benthos, n rus. бентон, m; бентос, m …   Ekologijos terminų aiškinamasis žodynas

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