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Species Name: Zostera marina


Common Names: eelgrass, eel-grass, eel grass, wrack grass



Zostera marina, commonly known as eelgrass, eel-grass, eel grass, wrack grass: green blades, found only in marine environment, there are 3 ecotypes of eelgrass in british columbia canada - phillipsi, latifolia, and typica. ecotypes have been described by backman in 1991 as having different habitat requirements. typica is the least common in bc. typica is found primarily in the intertidal with low tolerance to current, has short narrow blades. phillipsi is found between 0 and -4 m with more [edit]


Zostera marina is a marine species and Subgenus , the Zostera Zostera. It can be further characterized as in the Genus Zostera in the Family Zosteraceae. It forms part of the Alismatales Order, which is part of the Phylum Tracheophyta that is in the Kingdom Plantae. This organisms is a type of marine vascular plant.


Species recognition has been attributed to Linnaeus in the year 1753. [edit]

Identification and Characteristics Chart

Identification and Characteristics
Zostera marina
  • Green blades
  • Found only in marine environment
  • There are 3 ecotypes of eelgrass in British Columbia Canada - phillipsi, latifolia, and typica. Ecotypes have been described by Backman in 1991 as having different habitat requirements. Typica is the least common in BC. Typica is found primarily in the intertidal with low tolerance to current, has short narrow blades. Phillipsi is found between 0 and -4 m with moderate tolerance to current and has intermediate blade length and width, and latifolia is found between -0.5 and -10 m with strongest tolerance to current and has larger and wider blades.
  • Prefers sandy substrates or estuaries
  • Rhizomes anchor eelgrass to the sediment
  • Leaves are up to 1.2 cm wide by up to 1m long
  • A single plant has male and female flowers in separate alternating clusters
  • Can undergo vegetative reproduction from rhizomes
  • The fruit has a transparent coat containing the seed
  • [edit]
  • Vascular Plants
  • Conduct water through xylem
  • [edit]
  • Multicellular organisms
  • Have a cell wall made of cellulose
  • Obtain energy from sun typically with chlorophyll
  • Sexual or asexual reproduction
  • Modular and indeterminate growth
  • Alternation of generations
  • [edit]


    Look for Z. marina in the Sessile environment. Specimens can be found in the Subtropical zone. They are distributed around the world in the Eastern Pacific and Mediterranean Sea.Subtropical to temperate. Alaska to northern Mexico. They can be found at / are low intertidal to shallow subtidal. [edit]


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    Related Species and Genre

    There are 83 species or genre pages related to that have similar characteristics in our database. The most common are zostera marina-id-128, zostera (zosterella)-id-13132 and cyartonema zosterae-id-168072. A complete list is shown below:

    #idViewsScientific NameCommon Name
    1 78647 45 acrochaete parasitica f zosterae
    2 81488 54 acrochaetium zosterae
    3 92117 41 aegira zosterae
    4 175938 48 amphibolis zosteraefolia
    5 189313 36 anticoma zosterae
    6 170925 56 araeolaimus zosterae
    7 105883 50 castagnea zosterae
    8 168072 59 cyartonema zosterae
    9 26676 30 cytherois (orientocytherois) zosterae
    10 139702 45 desmolaimus zosterae
    11 140791 38 desulfovibrio zosterae
    12 155379 41 ectocarpus zosterae
    13 157767 36 elachista zosterae
    14 193261 31 enoplolaimus zosterae
    15 214514 31 eudesme zosterae
    16 39085 45 halanonchus zosterae
    17 225497 41 hermaea zosterae
    18 234762 49 heterozostera chilensis
    19 234761 46 heterozostera nigricaulis
    20 234765 50 heterozostera polychlamys
    21 234763 39 heterozostera tasmanica
    22 234759 34
    23 316485 37 hippocampus zosterae
    24 247310 37 hymeniacidon zosterae
    25 227840 47 hypodontolaimus zosterae
    26 48194 44 kushia zosteraphila
    27 49363 39 labyrinthula zosterae
    28 241371 33 leptocera zosterae
    29 56346 39 linckia zosterae
    30 333053 45 mesogloia zosterae
    31 436433 38 metalinhomoeus zosterae
    32 321011 46 microlaimus zosterae
    33 355666 47 mikrosyphar zosterae
    34 377892 32 myriocladia zosterae
    35 380247 35 nanozostera noltii
    36 380246 28
    37 375860 50 palio zosterae
    38 393710 41 paralinhomoeus zosterae
    39 401204 32 paralongicyatholaimus zosterae
    40 277817 44 polycera zosterae
    41 446190 34 pseudodiplosoma zosterarium
    42 420796 53 rivularia zosterae
    43 417650 37 southernia zosterae
    44 417665 27 southerniella zosterae
    45 324767 29 stiliger zosterae
    46 414161 33 thoracochaeta zosterae
    47 13129 46 zostera (zostera) caespitosa
    48 13130 49 zostera (zostera) caulescens
    49 13131 45 zostera (zostera) marina
    50 13128 57 zostera (zostera)
    51 13133 50 zostera (zosterella) americana
    52 13134 43 zostera (zosterella) capensis
    53 13135 40 zostera (zosterella) capricorni
    54 13136 42 zostera (zosterella) japonica
    55 13137 35 zostera (zosterella) muelleri
    56 13138 42 zostera (zosterella) noltei
    57 13139 55 zostera (zosterella) novazelandica
    58 13132 63 zostera (zosterella)
    59 13140 50 zostera americana
    60 13141 50 zostera angustifolia
    61 13142 40 zostera asiatica
    62 13143 45 zostera caespitosa
    63 13144 50 zostera capensis
    64 13145 45 zostera capricorni
    65 13146 43 zostera caulescens
    66 13147 45 zostera chilensis
    67 13148 47 zostera ciliata
    68 13149 53 zostera japonica publication is zostera americana den hartog 1970.
    69 13150 37 zostera marina var angustifolia
    70 128 1652 zostera marina eelgrass, eel-grass, eel grass, wrack grass
    71 13151 49 zostera mucronata
    72 13152 55 zostera muelleri
    73 13153 53 zostera nana dwarf eelgrass
    74 13154 37 zostera nigricaulis
    75 13155 45 zostera nodosa
    76 13156 51 zostera noltei publication is nanozostera noltii (hornemann) tomlinson & posluszny heterotypic .
    77 13157 44 zostera novazelandica
    78 13158 42 zostera oceanica
    79 13159 55 zostera polychlamys
    80 13160 37 zostera stipulacea
    81 13161 41 zostera tasmanica
    82 13162 48 zostera uninervis
    83 13127 40

    Species at Risk Status

    This species has not been identified as a concern in Canada under the Species at Risk Act.

    Physical Characteristics

    Z. marina can grow leaf blades to 2 m (6.6 tt) long, 1.5-12 mm (0.06-0.4 in) wide.

    Random Facts

    Zostera marina is a species of seagrass known by the common names common eelgrass and seawrack. It is an aquatic plant native to marine environments on the coastlines of mostly northern sections of North America and Eurasia. It is the most wide-ranging marine flowering plant in the Northern Hemisphere. It lives in cooler ocean waters in the North Atlantic and North Pacific, and in the warmer southern parts of its range it dies off during warmer seasons. It grows in the Arctic region and endures several months of ice cover per year. It is the only seagrass known from Iceland. It can also be found in bays, lagoons, estuaries, on beaches, and in other coastal habitat. It occurs in calmer waters in the sublittoral zone where it is rarely exposed to air. It anchors via rhizome in sandy or muddy substrates and its leaves catch particulate debris in the water which then collects around the bases of the plants, building up the top layer of the seabed.
    This flowering plant is a rhizomatous herb which produces a long stem with hairlike green leaves that measure up to 1.2 centimeters wide and might reach over a meter long. It is a perennial plant but it might grow as an annual. The rhizome grows horizontally through the substrate, anchoring via clusters of roots at nodes. The plant is monoecious, with an individual bearing both male and female flowers in separate alternating clusters. The fruit is a nutlet with a transparent coat containing the seed. The plant can also also undergo vegetative reproduction, sprouting repeatedly from its rhizome and spreading into a meadowlike colony on the seabed known as a genet. One meadow of cloned eelgrass was determined to be 3000 years old, genetically. When undergoing sexual reproduction, the plant produces large quantities of seeds, at times numbering several thousand seeds per square meter of plants. The plant disperses large distances when its stems break away and carry the fertile seeds to new areas, eventually dropping to the seabed. The seagrass is a favorite food of several species of waterfowl, which might also distribute the seeds.
    This plant is an important member of the coastal ecosystem in several areas because it helps to physically form the habitat and it plays a crucial role for several other species. For example, it provides a sheltered spawning ground for the Pacific herring (Clupea pallasii). Baby Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) hide in eelgrass beds as they grow. The Blue mussel (Mytilus edulis) attaches to its leaves. The green alga Entocladia perforans, an endophyte, depends on this eelgrass. A great several animals use the plant for food, including the isopod Idotea chelipes and the purple sea urchin Paracentrotus lividus. The Atlantic Brant (Branta bernicula hrota) subsists almost entirely on the plant. When the eelgrass dies, detaches, and washes up on the beach a whole new ecosystem is founded; several species of insects and other invertebrates begin to inhabit the dead plant, including the amphipod Talitrus saltator, the fly Fucellia tergina, and the beetles Stenus biguttatus, Paederus littoralis, and Coccinella septempunctata.
    Populations of the plant have been damaged by a number of processes, especially increased turbidity in the water; like most other plants, eelgrass requires sunlight to grow. One plant might adapt to light level by growing longer leaves to reach the sun in low-light areas; individuals in clear or shallow water might have leaves a few centimeters long, while individuals in deeper spots might have leaves over a meter long. Human activities such as dredging and trawling damage eelgrass meadows; practices used in scallop and mussel harvesting in the Wadden Sea have cleared much eelgrass from the sea bottom there. Aquaculture operations and coastal development destroy colonies. Pollution from several sources, including riverside farms, sewage lines, fish processing plants, and oil spills damage eelgrass meadows. Conservation and restoration efforts of Zostera marina habitats have been plenty since their rapid decline started several decades ago.
    Invasive species have been shown to have a negative effect on eelgrass and associated ecosystems. In Nova Scotia the invasive exotic green crab (Carcinus maenas) destroys eelgrass when it digs in the substrate for prey items. The decline of eelgrass in Antigonish Harbour has resulted in fewer Canada Geese, which feed on the rhizome, and fewer Common Goldeneye, which eat invertebrates that live in eelgrass meadows.
    The slime mold Labryrinthula zosterae caused a "wasting disease" of eelgrass resulting in large-scale losses in the 1930s; localized populations are still affected by the slime mold today. During this time, populations of the eelgrass-eating Atlantic Brant dropped. Remaining geese ate less-preferred food plants and algae and hunters subsequently noticed that Brant meat began to taste different. Even today Brants no longer migrate over the Nova Scotia area.
    People have long used this plant species as roof thatching in some areas. It has been used as fertilizer and cattle fodder in Norway for centuries. It could also be dried and used as stuffing for mattresses and furniture.
    The bacterial species Granulosicoccus coccoides was first isolated from the leaves of the plant.

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