Life at the Edge of the Sea

Sea urchins and a sea star. Imagine waking up in the morning submerged in freezing water, spending your afternoon baking beneath a merciless sun, and ending the day battered by 10-foot waves that smash into you with the force of a hundred hammer blows — all the while fending off attacks from neighbors intent on making you their next meal. Such is the challenging everyday life of the remarkable creatures featured in the NATURE program LIFE AT THE EDGE OF THE SEA. This film, which took two years to create, is a vivid portrait of life — and death — in the tide pools and bays along Canada’s rugged Pacific coast.

Researchers have long marveled at the life that flourishes in the narrow band where the sea flings itself against the edge of the continent. Mussels, barnacles, and anemones carpet rocks and sand flats, crabs hide under every stone, and fish and sea stars lurk in forests of kelp and sea grass, eager for a meal. But amidst pounding waves and powerful tides, these plants and animals must find a way to hang on — or risk being tossed high onto the beach or swept out to sea. Those that find footholds are rewarded with a daily feast of food and oxygen, delivered by the rising tide.

When the tide recedes, however, the feast may be followed by famine and danger: without their protective blanket of water, residents of the tidal zone are exposed to extreme conditions, from summer’s broiling sun to winter’s freezing winds.

A barnacle in the midst of feeding. They also become vulnerable to land-based invaders: there is no way to predict when a bird, bear, or mink might emerge from its forest home looking for a convenient seafood snack.

Indeed, the tide, which comes in and goes out twice a day, is one of the few predictable events in an otherwise chaotic world, providing an underlying rhythm to life along the shore. However, unless we stare unwaveringly at the shore for hours, the tide creeps in and out too gradually for us to notice. But by using time-lapse photography, which compresses hours or days of action into just a few minutes, the filmmakers who created LIFE AT THE EDGE OF THE SEA were able to capture the subtle beauty of the flowing tide in several stunning sequences. Documenting the ocean’s slow ebb and flow was no easy task, says Rodger Jackman, the veteran British filmmaker who produced the film: it took more than a dozen tries to get the right combination of light and weather.

Despite their difficulty, however, time-lapse techniques also allowed Jackman and his team to capture sights usually visible only to the most patient observer. In two sequences, for example, events that take hours to occur in nature are compressed into the space of a few seconds: a mussel puts forth the strong, web-like threads that anchor it to the ocean floor, and a single flower-like sea anemone elegantly divides into two perfect clones. Other anemones — which, despite their plant-like appearance, are animals — are shown fighting a territorial battle.

Though slow, the fight is vicious, as the combatants stab at each other with tiny, venom-filled harpoons. In another segment, a predatory sea star pursues a fleeing hat-shaped mollusk called a limpet in a chase that moves at a glacially slow pace, yet manages to keep viewers on the edge of their seats. Though the limpet does not escape its relentless predator, other seashore animals use ingenious ways of foiling their attackers. When pursued by a hungry rock crab, a hermit crab simply climbs out of its shell, trading its home for its life. A keyhole limpet rents out space on its shell to a helpful companion, a small worm that darts out to charge the feet of a threatening sea star to drive it away. A solitary deep-water anemone literally dances away from an approaching sea star, tearing itself from the ocean floor and launching itself off with a deep bow and a twist, soaring away from the luckless star.

To order a copy of Life at the Edge of the Sea, please visit the NATURE Shop.

Online content for Life at the Edge of the Sea was originally posted December 1998.

  • jennifer Gough

    I felt this was a good article. It is something that happens everyday because it is playing a continuous
    cycle of the circle of life .

  • kymmi

    that i am learning about this in class and this website gives a lot of information for kids in middle school like me an easier way of understanding the way tide pools work!!!

  • Denzel Chung

    thank you for making this it helps me alot :)

  • Selena Gomez

    Hey this site is Hott!

  • djghh

    i love this stuff.. it excites me (:
    p.s.. hi ,.

  • billy

    hey is rachelle

  • Ria

    Um.. This site doesn’t really help.. It’s mixed up and it takes a while just to get to the point… I got lost after the first paragraph.. It didn’t grab my attention

  • Leslie Scroggins

    i reallt liked this article it was fasinating

  • Hayley

    This was…different. I never knew tide pools were such war zones…=/

  • kill me

    hey this a hot sitl

  • Player One

    This website is rather useless to say the least. Of course, when you’re in school you search for the obvious answers, but who knew they’d be so vague. -laughs- Interesting info, but nothing short of daft answers.

  • emomuch?

    grr school.

  • Samantha

    kay this is weird

  • SuperSillySmileyFace

    The first paragraph is so dramatic, it scares me!!!

  • me

    I don’t like this site… It doesn’t keep my attention… Oh look, a butterfly! ^_^ *follows butterfly*

  • Logan Mial

    I’m tired of this virtual school crap.

  • whoop commet 20

    it doesnt even talk anout anything. I WANT A MOVIE STOP TALKING!!!! BEEF

  • ~gurly~

    I thought this site was a movie? Apparently not… and this site doesnt get to a point… the facts are vague and not stated clearly..

  • *kat*

    hey this is a good site cuz it had a lot of good facts but you could make it more intristing and put some picturs because it got reAlly boring there 4 a bit……and some pimp back rounds!!love ya peace out

  • sarah

    I didnt no that tide pools are like battle feilds.(: its exciting but scary at the same tide. I have school i missed so i have a project to do. it sucks a lot

  • yo bald headded granny

    knock….knock any body home i told u this site was bouring

  • Ricky D

    This article doesnt answer any of my questions…

  • Philip Campbell

    I eat see urchiins yall praisee jesus

  • Mike Martin

    Great video, really matches a lot of info at my site, Come on over and check it out and feel free to join our family.

  • Poo Coo

    this site is not what i wanted i rated no stars

  • cala noporis

    Stupid article not what i wanted. i want the flow chart of a rock pool.

  • John

    Hm…This site was not very helpful and now I’m scared to go near tide pools.

  • FaMoUs fLaGsTeAd

    Wow. The most interesting part about this article was all the funny comments after it :)

  • Tierra likes little boys

    I don’t like this. Tide pools are nice not scary. I won’t believe it!! :)

  • Appocalyptic

    this was a great article conisdering im taking marine science lol

  • lizzie

    this didn’t help at all i hate marine science

  • Soichi

    Omg. I dont have3 add but thuis sight.OH! a BUNNY!!!!

  • Bobo

    This sight does not teach me anything! Seriously! i don’t have a-d-d but…………..OMg A KITTY! *goes and gets kitty*

  • via

    I think this article was VERY fascinating. I am in the sixth grade and I feel very strong about it.

  • jello biafra

    ok grow up people. not everything can be flashy lights and bright colors. just read it and do your school work. AND STOP FAKING ADD LIKE THE OTHER 3RD GRADER BEFORE YOU!!!!

  • hayden


  • bob

    yo yo yo

  • hayden

    im sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo bored

  • preston

    I loved this article! It was so helpful to my schoolwork! Thank you for posting such a wonderful article! :D

  • Carolyn

    Really they have a comment box?…. hmmm well it pretty much got my biology done…

  • Lilly Whole

    I hated this article!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • kayla

    i have not read this yet

  • Caleb

    i have not read this website yet!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Katie

    i did not get what the article was trying to say but i now feel sorry for creatures that live in tide pools…….i heart starfish……….bye!n_n

  • mary

    this site is so cool my teacher showed me and my friends this during school cause we finished my writing early. You should add this to ur favorites. it really gives nice onformation

  • Veronica G

    Hey this is a good educatonal website but i think the way people talk about this site is wonderful and rude. This info is great for school and i really am glad PBS made this site for me and my friends. My cool teacher says this site is good and she gave me the URL

  • Mary

    this site is cool, educational, and fun but the way ppl talk about it is horible i think they should have a blocking system my teacher, and “Veronica G” think so 2.

  • trent

    Dude im old, but i like this.

  • Rusty #74

    I am Rusty, This is very informational, my school loves this site. I am a very quiet person but i love this. I go to this site everyday after Dairy Queen.

  • tori

    Really, even if this site is kinda boring, it does give information. Everybody who has compalined about virtual school should just deal, becuase there’s nothing we can do about it. I know…I’m a virtual student too. :/
    Why waste time complaining?

  • robbie

    any1 want play world of warcraft

  • steven


  • marissa

    blah blah blah blah, this site makes me sick to my stomach… is what its all about pc4pc

  • oculapoodah

    if i could be any animal i would be an animal that could live in a tide pool. sweet.
    im making an animal that can live in a tide pool for a school project and it is cool.

  • chelsea

    i liked reading about this it was so cool
    :) :) :)

  • Tyree Spratt

    this is real helpful i undersAND NOW!!!!!!!!!!

  • Ashley Rawson

    i really love learning about this i love this website i wish that i can learn more and more about this subject! i loveee crabssss!!!! <3333333333333 yay! wateerrrr is great why does it kill the water animals really green crabs eat clams why cant they just live together without eatting each other really!!!!!!! please stop eatting each other REALLY STOP IT!!!

  • Jenn

    wow….really?!? and i learned what…….?

  • GothicGirl

    Wow…… It was blah, doesn’t grab my attention. :(

  • BiologyQueen

    Not that I’m much interested in tide pools, but it did help with school a lot. Thanks.

  • Miss_Morgann

    tide pools before i read this article: fascinating, peaceful *happy sigh*
    tide pools after i read this article: war zone with scorching suns and terrozing crabs *crys*

    holy cricket, its amazing how one boring article can change your prospective on a tide pool.

  • YobAbYmOmMa

    I didn’t read the article… I like the pic… I loved everyones’ comments! I read each and every single one and you’re all beautiful whiny strange people! <3

  • Quinterra Larry

    This information was very helpful I did,nt know that sea creatures deal with this kind of struggle to survive.Of course you hear about sharks and people but, I never knew that low tide and high tide could kill them too.

  • AJ&Stevie

    This was a good article!!!! It was very helpful, and I am learning about this in my clas, for middle school. This helps a lot.
    Thanks you very much!!! :p

  • CuDi fan ;]

    I just wasted so much time reading these comments lol, I havent even read the article yet, but all this complaining is unnecessary, 4real u guys, come on.

  • lily

    okay, look, this site is AWESOME!!!!!!! and for all you guys who put it down, you guys are all JERKS!!!!! sure it could use some improvements, but SERIOUSLY! grow up! Personally, i think this site should talk about environmental issues.

  • Tempe Brennan

    This website was really informative, however I was under the impression that there would me a video…I don’t get it….BOOTH!!

  • Blaire

    Haha, spent more time reading the comments then the article. Didn’t learn to much from the article, it was more of a summary of the movie, “Life at the Edge of the Sea”, then a about a tidal pool. Yet it was still interesting.

  • i like pie!

    this site was very helpful, thank you!

  • Nik

    “Imagine waking up in the morning submerged in freezing water, spending your afternoon baking beneath a merciless sun, and ending the day battered by 10-foot waves that smash into you with the force of a hundred hammer blows — all the while fending off attacks from neighbors intent on making you their next meal.” How dare you try to drag me into this!

  • *~BioBabe~*

    This was really great. I enjoyed the very beginning. It grabs your attention very nicely. I love biology and I am also a journalist, so any good piece of writing is enjoyable. I was completely sucked in. I will look for more!!!!

  • Meh

    Why not just watch the video? =/ well i guess the article was alright, not exactly capturing though, i got bored after the first paragraph.

  • debi

    was really hoping to see close up pix of tide pools or a video on tide pools.
    can someone point me to those sites?

  • Taylor

    I liked this article. I love the ocean and every chanc i get to learn more about it i take it!!!!

  • Chelsea

    WOW…reading this was a complete waste of my time. It wasnt even helpful, and im not just saying this because i do not like science. I was hoping to see close ups of REAL tide pools…*sigh* o well

  • joel

    this was very helpful for my research and helped me out with my project alot

  • icarly

    very descriptive but it had little information on how tide pools work or anything scientific. was very well writen but not very fantastic.

  • Lolli

    This article was good.

  • samantha

    this article really didnt say much.

  • Wow15

    This article is so lame! This site is not interesting?!

  • jasmine

    im a visual learner but i love to read and take in information but i didn’t understand the artical at all i think they should put in a few videos so that people get more interested and so they maybe understand it better. bye ^-^

  • angelo

    the article lacks something interesting in it…need to have more flavor to it.

  • yo yo joe!!!

    hey i love the amout of info you put in here…but i would put somemore pic…makes it more interesting…know what i mean…love the info though!!!

  • thgirwjt

    i thought it was going to be an activity, and it wasn’t. that completely bored me.

  • that 1 kid


  • lilprincess24

    to:nickbackfan, watching TV will rot your brain.

  • lilprincess24

    hey hey hey! it is me !<3

  • FCKU

    wow…. (yawn) :O

  • yipe i wuz here

    hartey har harrr :)
    i wuz here !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Unknown

    you smell goooood ———->
    hahah .
    YIPE .
    youu weird aMBER YOU!

  • Justin Bieber

    Confession: I’m really, Justine Bieber. I’m a girl.

  • Brent Marsden

    There is something about rock pools that can really fascinate me. I think it is the fact that they are a complete ecosystem and can survive for 12 hours a day without the need for the tide to come in and replenish them. The wonder of nature. thanks for a great post.

  • Waffles

    I think that this site was actually very interesting. It gives you a new perspective on marine life and the daily struggle of tide pool inhabitants. I’m really glad this site was made because I think that it is very useful in class. Although, I have to agree it would be nice to have more visual aids to go with the article. As to the rude comments, really? If you don’t like the website, please don’t leave one.

  • Scorpion of Mortal Kombat

    its every..insenuating and humilic page…but theres no reason to complain about this topic…* GET OVER HERE!!*

  • swtor

    This was a genuinely really excellent submit. In theory I’d prefer to write like this also – getting time and actual effort to make a good piece of writing… but what can I say… I procrastinate alot and by no means appear to obtain a thing done.

  • Chris

    Do not feed the trolls. Decent article, its a shame these people are idiots, but hey, if you can’t survive a flame war, you don’t deserve the internet.

  • Mist-Walker

    This article helped me so many ways! I’m studying for my Final in Bio for a Doctorate and this was an excellennt study tool! Everyone should come here!

  • Jasmine Broomfield

    This article really helped me.I learned things that i had no clue about.

  • Jen Jen

    Lovin’ this sight, it is very scientific and awesome info for my Bio class. Thanks PBS for this amazing page!!!

  • katelyn

    site is awesome and helped me on my last project for my high school! Thankies a lot!

  • logan

    I’m in marine science and I dont like it but Was that really salena gomez on here it cant be but any was i dont this really helped me

  • darlene


  • chris jeen

    Great article. Usually when I go to the beach, I get with me some Mink Blankets. I saw a lot crabs hide under the stones on the sand also.

  • girl

    im a school hehe

  • girl

    im at school hehe

  • Robena Orttenburger

    I like this web site very much, Its a rattling nice place to read and find information. “Money may kindle, but it cannot by itself, and for very long, burn.” by Igor Stravinski.


    So where does brutally murdering whales and seals with cruel and humane methods rate on your scale of critical evaluation? As far as I’m concerned the whalers and seal murderers are eco-terrorists and need to be stopped. And there is plenty of video evidence to support that too. And if you want to bring ship ramming into it, explain the incident where the Shonan Maru deliberately rammed the Bob Barker. Explain the use of concussion grenades. Explain the throwing of large steel nuts at the operators of the SSCS Delta boat. Explain the use of an LRAD against a helicopter while in flight. Since you are such a fan of direct answers for direct questions, I expect a point-by-point reply.

  • seofans

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  • Rose

    Really everyone, the article isn’t that bad! I suppose tide pools aren’t as majestic as some people think they are… It only makes perfect sense though; if the water is always receding, then the sea life there must be in great danger constantly. I’d really like to see the video on this! Thanks, PBS. :)

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