Real Mermaid Life in the Ocean

Coastal waters used to be great places for mermaids to live.
Coastal waters used to be great places for mermaids to live. | Source

The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says that mermaids "may" not exist, but also acknowledges that 80% of the ocean has yet to be discovered. Given that the NOAA is already finding the ocean to embrace a huge diversity of life and terrain; given that they are always finding new species of life, including the giant squid (whose existence was once mocked, along with mermaids); it is remotely possible that mermaids or mer-families could exist somewhere. If they did, though, what would life be like for them in the oceans of today?

We can imagine that "real" mermaid life (called such to differentiate from movie mermaids) would be similar to humans, if humans could live in the ocean, and if the description of mermaids passed down through the generations is halfway accurate. So let's look at what we "know" of mermaids so far, from generational legends of yore.

Do mermaids comb their hair to make it straight? Or do they comb it for the additional food caught therein.
Do mermaids comb their hair to make it straight? Or do they comb it for the additional food caught therein. | Source

Legendary Images of Mermaids

Although there are no existing photographs of real mermaids, the story images and descriptions we have give us a lot of information, including looks, characteristics, and behaviors:

  • Looks - We know that mermaids are human looking, with long hair and fish-like tails, instead of legs. Their skin is smooth and sensitive, except for the tails, which we can imagine being scaly and slippery. They have an upper body like ours, with arms and hands like ours that can manipulate objects.

  • Characteristics - Mermaids spot ships from way far off, so their eyesight must be good. Because they spend a lot of time underwater, their hearing must be also. (Dolphins and whales have very acute hearing.) They breathe air, which means they have to be near the surface most of the time, or in underwater caves with air pockets. They can hold their breath underwater or maybe even breathe underwater, and they keep their eyes open. They have powerful, magnetic singing voices, with much practice being heard over crashing waves. They are hardy and can withstand the elements.

  • Behaviors - Mermaids take breaks from the ocean often, sitting on isolated volcanic rocks sunbathing and combing through their hair. They eat seaweed and fish raw. They frequently frolic with dolphins and likely communicate with them too. Mermaids recognize value, salvaging useful and beautiful items from shipwrecks. They know how to use objects as tools in complicated ways, how to think, and how to exchange thoughts and ideas. They're intelligent enough to lure sailors to their rocks, to cause shipwrecks from which they can salvage. They can interbreed with humans, and often warn them of upcoming storms and rough seas. And they work together to find food.

Coral reefs and shallows are great places for food.
Coral reefs and shallows are great places for food. | Source
Near Salvador, Brazil, this bay is a sheltered place to play and feed along the edge of the rocks.
Near Salvador, Brazil, this bay is a sheltered place to play and feed along the edge of the rocks. | Source
Different types of seaweed grow different places. This is a seaweed known as dulce, commonly used in soup by humans.
Different types of seaweed grow different places. This is a seaweed known as dulce, commonly used in soup by humans. | Source

How Do Mermaids Find Food?

The ocean provides an abundance of food for mammals, especially in shallow, warmer areas close to coastlines - crustaceans, small and medium sized fish, many varieties of seaweed. If mermaids are anything like humans (or if we are like them), they would live near their best food source/s, whenever they could. Let's look at how mermaids might act when feeding.

Cruising through coral reefs or rough rocks, mermaids spear crustaceans with their long, claw-like nails, pulling them off their perches and picking the juicy bodies out of their shells. While they eat, small fish congregate under the mermaids' long, lightly matted hair spread above. When the mermaids finish feeding, they reach up to their hair, grab a hold of coral pieces woven into the ends, pull them down and gather them together with the small fish caught inside, like a net. Tying the ends together with a long seaweed strip, they carry the fish with them wherever they go, eating when hungry, until it's time to stock up again.

When not cruising coral reefs, mermaids harvest seaweed forests, reaching up rock walls or swimming in and out of kelp trunks, feeding off the leaves of the best tasting kelp, and catching small fish also feeding there. When kelp seed pods are ripe, they choose the healthiest ones to plant elsewhere, having already prepared spots in protected places. They also keep an eye out for humans using seaweed gathering machines for their own use, who raid the forests without realizing the mermaids are there, stripping them of a valuable source of food.

For larger fish, mermaids join dolphins to herd huge schools of cod, herring, or mackerel. They eat whatever meat breaks off of that chomped by their partners, and they catch smaller juveniles for themselves. Holding onto a dolphin fin with one hand, they use the other like a clamp, grabbing and closing onto fish as they rush by. They eat the fish raw out of that hand, while holding the dolphin for stability. If near land, they might let go and swim to a nearby rock to eat, or they toss fish after fish up to other mermaids on the rock, until there is enough to eat for all. It's exciting, hard work fishing like this and it keeps their bodies in good shape.

Ocean Predators Feeding

When "bait balls" of fish gather and are attacked by predators, dolphins work together to keep them near the surface. Not only does that make it easier to feed, but the mammals stay close to air for when they need to breathe.

How Do Mermaids Exercise?

In addition to herding food, mermaids and dolphins are known to play together. Since mermaids don't have legs, they can't ride on the backs of dolphins, but they can race each other holding onto a dolphin's fins. They also play ball, with mermaids using their hands to throw and catch, and dolphins using their mouths. They have splash fights, play hide and seek through caves and reefs, and tag or chase in the open ocean. They compete to see who can blow the biggest bubbles, and mermaids often swim through the bubbles the dolphins blow. And, of course, mermaids have their own games without dolphins.

"Porpoising" is one of the ways dolphins play, although it's also easier to travel this way.
"Porpoising" is one of the ways dolphins play, although it's also easier to travel this way. | Source

Playing games and obtaining food gives mermaids plenty of exercise. For more relaxed activities there are explorations of shipwrecks, underwater caves, thermal pipes, seaweed forests, tide pools, and any number of interesting things. For resting, there are rocks, shallow pools, moss beds, sand bars, and caves partly underwater. They often make seaweed mats to float lazily across the ocean.

Unless humans or wounded shark predators are around, stress is generally low. (Stress is the biggest killer in humanoids - reducing resilience and leading to all kinds of other diseases.) As long as water and air are clean, mermaids are able to stay healthy. But with humans around, needing to feed ourselves and breeding as prolifically as we are, staying stress free has become nearly impossible for mermaids. Where, then, can mermaids go to live as stress-free as possible?

Best Places To Live In The Ocean

Safety and the availability of food are two of the biggest determinants of where mermaids can live. Clean water, good air, warmth, shelter, and recreational potential are others. Let's look at possible living locations for mermaids, using these criteria:

The Effect of Pollution

If mermaids existed today, which form of pollution do you think would be hardest on them?

  • Plastics & trash
  • Spills of fossil fuels
  • River runoff
  • Noise pollution
  • I don't think pollution would be a problem.
See results without voting

Coastlines provide great sources of food. Healthy coastlines have good air and lots of recreational possibilities. There are warm, shallow seas where plankton grow well, where small fish feed and become food for bigger fish. Rivers pour mineral-rich waters into the ocean, which feeds the plankton.

Most coastlines these days, though, are heavily polluted with toxins and trash, which interferes with feeding, kills plankton and fish, and itches and burns sensitive mermaid eyes and skin. Coastlines are also filled with ogling (or disbelieving) human tourists, making it very unlikely that mermaids could survive anymore there.

Volcanic islands have cliffs to which seaweed and crustaceans cling, attracting smaller fish, which attracts bigger fish, so they are also good sources of food. Islands have caves, which make good shelters, and they have rocks and beaches for mermaids to pull themselves up onto for resting. Some islands are still warmed by lava inside. Unless humans are living on them, the water that flows to the ocean is generally clean and healthy.

Perfect place for mermaids to sing their siren songs and lure ships to crash.
Perfect place for mermaids to sing their siren songs and lure ships to crash. | Source

Icebergs are great sources of food too. Little worms and microbes live in tiny holes in the ice, which fish and certain whales love to eat. Dolphins and porpoises are in turn drawn to the fish. When an iceberg pops (calves) the sound spreads throughout the region and alerts these predators that food is available. However, the temperature is very cold there and icebergs don't provide much protection. Icebergs are a great place for mermaids to feed and play, but not to stay very long.

Geothermal vents could be one of the best places for mermaids to live these days, if they can handle the depth and acidity. The vents are underwater hot springs where tectonic plates spread apart and heat from inside the earth leaks upward. Researchers have discovered light down there, strong enough for photosynthesis, which could mean oxygen, as well. And humans rarely go there. That combination of natural light, nutrient-rich fluids, heat, and the volcanic-type terrain, could provide an ecosystem in the deeps rich enough to satisfy the life needs of mermaids, plus give them privacy. The Mariannas Trench and the Galapagos Rift are two such possibilities.

Given the abundance of food, things to do, and places to live, mermaids should be a happy, healthy community. Given, also, that warm, coastal areas are one of their best places to live, why do we humans never see them?

Human Interference & Quality of Life

Either mermaids don't exist anymore, or they do, but are hiding from us. Given how we humans have treated the oceans, either one is a possibility. We've interfered with their food sources, poisoned their waters, more than tripled the noise, split their territory up into shipping lanes for our own use, used it as a dumping ground, and overall created extreme stress for all life forms in the ocean.

Our plastics sludge, microbeads, and trash floats throughout the ocean, collecting in miles wide "garbage patches" that coat plankton, blocking its access to air, reducing sunlight, and causing those feeding on it to eat as much plastic as plankton. The plastic causes starvation, which reduces the amount of food for populations higher up the food chain.

Plastic Pollution in the Gyres

All five garbage patches are circled here. You can see, by how much of the ocean they take up, what a serious problem plastic sludge is for plankton growth and the food chain.
All five garbage patches are circled here. You can see, by how much of the ocean they take up, what a serious problem plastic sludge is for plankton growth and the food chain. | Source

Toxic, man-made chemicals pouring out of river mouths all over the world also affect the food chain, poisoning it when eaten and turning the ocean acidic. The acid in the ocean wears away the protective mucous coating that all ocean dwellers have, creating ulcerated skin and rashes. This is one of two main reasons that mermaids can't live near the coast anymore.

The other reason is tourism and the attitudes of humans toward sea creatures, especially intelligent ones. It doesn't take much observation of the way human industries have treated dolphins and whales (if not killing, then enslaving them) to recognize that the same would happen with mermaids, were they caught. Smart mermaids take themselves far away from humans.

Consequences of Overfishing

Humans are breeding so prolifically that they have outgrown their normal food sources, so they are raiding the seas. Between fishing out complete populations of fish, using machines to harvest too much seaweed, killing coral reefs that feed crustaceans and small fish, and smothering plankton, humans are quickly destroying the food chain in the oceans for everyone.

Cruise ships dump bilge wastes that used to nourish, but now poison the waters. Cargo freighters dump ballast water that spreads non-native species of plants and microbes that take over an ecosystem and kill it. OIl tankers and underwater drilling operations spill millions of gallons of oil into the ocean, then chase it down with toxic chemical dispersants.

Add to that the sonar and seismic tests run by the navy (supposedly for war) and by oil companies to find undersea oil deposits. These sonar blasts cripple the ability of cetaceans and other sea creatures to navigate the depths and communicate with each other. They blast out eardrums and cause whole pods of whales and dolphins to beach themselves. Between the US navy and the oil companies, human sonar is blasting an ever-increasing swath of ocean, including at least the Pacific, Atlantic, and Arctic Oceans.

To be safe, to live well and happily, mermaids would have to live as far away as possible from ships of all kinds - tourist, trawler, freighter, navy, and oil drillers. Since ships go all over the place now, that leaves geothermal vents, hundreds of feet below the ocean surface, as the only rational place for mermaids to live. If they are there, for how much longer will we let them survive?

Exploring the Oceans

Oceans (2008)
Oceans (2008)

This spectacular series combines archeology, geology, marine biology and anthropology with all the energy and excitement of a good thriller. Astonishing footage captures the full beauty of the ocean world, and video diaries reflect the team's stresses, successes, disappointments and dangers.


More by this Author

  • Telepathy & Communication With Dolphins

    An early near-drowning experience in the ocean started a years long experimentation with the art of telepathy, and provided an increased understanding of dolphins too.

  • Mermaid Sightings & Speculations

    There have been too many recorded sightings, and too many cave drawings and legends of mermaids to just dismiss their existence as fantasy. Here are 4 possible reasons for why belief in them persists.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

A very clever write this one. Well done! 80% of the oceans have not been explored? I had no idea the number was that high. Wow!

watergeek profile image

watergeek 2 years ago Author

Thanks billybuc. Most of what we've seen has been on the surface, with maybe 5% of the ocean floor. There's the whole space in between that hasn't been looked at. We haven't had the technology. Check out this link and video:

peachpurple profile image

peachpurple 2 years ago from Home Sweet Home

great article. So mermaids are similar to dolphins, right? They are indeed beautiful human-marine creatures. Wish there was such a reality.

grand old lady profile image

grand old lady 2 years ago from Philippines

I like the way you used the topic of mermaids to lead us to even more interesting facts about the mysteries of the waters below. We literally live beneath two mysteries, the sea world and the sky above. Thank you or another well written informative and interesting article. Voted up.

watergeek profile image

watergeek 2 years ago Author

LOL. I sometimes think we humans are the greatest mystery of all. No sooner do we discover something new about ourselves, then something more amazing comes along. Like telepathy. Have you seen the video that was going around about a dolphin watching a young girl do handstands and laughing? I haven't met dolphins myself yet, but I've heard say that they communicate with each other and humans via "telempathy," i.e. emotional heart energy.

GoodLady profile image

GoodLady 2 years ago from Rome, Italy

Such a fascinating piece. I networked it all round. Love the idea that perhaps mermaids exist and that you inform us where and why ( and with so so many interesting facts to support your question). Just great.

watergeek profile image

watergeek 2 years ago Author

Thanks Penelope. It's an interesting speculation. Wouldn't it be cool if they really did exist? (Thanks for sharing it.)

kerlund74 profile image

kerlund74 2 years ago from Sweden

Absolute amazing, and of course there are a lot of life and creatures we don't know about! Congrats for beiing the hub of the day. A great hub:)

cheeluarv profile image

cheeluarv 2 years ago from INDIA

Very interesting and brilliantly written. congrats on hub of the day.

Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

Great hub water geek. I believe mermaids are out there somewhere. You are right most of the ocean is undiscovered and it's a remote possibility. Congratulations of getting 'Hub of the Day' too. I wrote a poem about mermaids myself and their song that lures ships to be wrecked on the rocks. Well done, voted up.

Tzrinz 2 years ago

All is fascinating, but I most wonder where do mermaids get ball from, to play with dolphins!!!!:)

whonunuwho profile image

whonunuwho 2 years ago from United States

What we have read about and art work seen, indicates there is a legitimacy in the existence of mermaids, or people living within the sea. There have been many recent examples of live and dead life forms of mermaids captured in fishing nets and washed up on beaches.

This is a subject that cannot be dispelled as hearsay or conjecture when the proof is examined.

It is very fascinating and mind boggling. Thanks for the nice hub. whonu

Nadine May profile image

Nadine May 2 years ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

Wow you beat me to it! I had seen various videos on mermaids on You Tube a few weeks ago. I loved the idea to explore and research the topic and to write a hub about it but now that you have done such a terrific job, I rather read yours over again. Congratulations for this very well written and informative article. There are still so many hidden mysteries on Earth, who knows mermaids could very well be real.

FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

Congratulations on HOTD! This is a truly original hub, and I enjoyed it immensely.

watergeek profile image

watergeek 2 years ago Author

Thank you everybody. I really feel honored to have received HOTD, since I wasn't sure how people would receive it. I agree that there are still lots of mysteries out there, especially in places like the Amazon Forest and the ocean. We tend to get a little cynical about life as we age and that's not necessary. I love rediscovering and sharing that mystery still exists.

Tzrinz - You asked where mermaids get balls from? The gyres, of course. Pollution does have a few benefits, after all. ;-)

oceansnsunsets profile image

oceansnsunsets 2 years ago from The Midwest, USA

Watergeek, what an interesting hub about possible mermaids! I found it interesting to learn about the lore and legends. It is unfortunate to learn about the plastic sludge mentioned, and I hope something can be done to turn things around in that regard. On the one hand it isn't a surprise, I just didn't know how serious it was/is. Thanks for sharing this information and very neat photos as well. Voted interesting and beautiful.

Easy Exercise profile image

Easy Exercise 2 years ago from United States

Outstanding job and HOTD well earned title! 80% of the ocean is unknown - isn't that phenomenal with today's technology?! Great job! Well deserved accolades.

gmwilliams profile image

gmwilliams 2 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

This is a fascinating and INTERESTING hub. No wonder it won HOTD. The oceans have always been a fascinating subject to me. Didn't know that 80% of the oceans are yet undiscovered. Who knows what LIFEFORMS can be found? The oceans can be further navigated as more food sources and perhaps in the future, living quarters.

watergeek profile image

watergeek 2 years ago Author

Thanks folks. One of these days I'm going to write a hub on some of the interesting ways people are developing to clean up the gyres (even kids). Maybe we could use some of those discarded plastics for building ocean living quarters (lol).

Tashaonthetown profile image

Tashaonthetown 2 years ago from South Africa

Interesting and intriguing hub! you have got me curious to find out more about mermaids and life in the ocean

theBAT profile image

theBAT 2 years ago

A well written hub. Congratulations! While reading, I can imagine how mermaids live if they do exist today. Thank you for sharing.

watergeek profile image

watergeek 2 years ago Author

Good, good. If I've got your imaginations soaring, that's what I wanted. Explore on!

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    watergeek253 Followers
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    Susette has a Masters degree in wise use of natural resources. She leads the Green Council and writes for The Sustainable Business Review.

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