What is the difference between coastal and littoral?

What is the difference between coastal and littoral?

If an animal is coastal, it means that it lives on or near the coast. 

A ‘coastal zone’ is the area where the ocean water, or sea water, meets the land. It includes sea cliffs, mud flats, and shoreline rocks and ledges. In the ocean, the coastal zone extends to the continental shelf (and the air above it), before the ocean becomes deeper. On land, there are many definitions, such as the low-water line marked officially on a map or the number of kilometres or miles designated by the laws of the country, such as 5-38 kilometres (3-24 miles) inland. Some scientists think that there should not be territorial or boundary limits on the definition of a coastal zone.

Coastal only relates to marine and brackish-water locations, such as where a river or lake meets the sea. For example, an inland river or lake, beyond the designated limits, is not in the coastal zone. 

Coastal animals include sea lions, birds, jellyfish, dolphins, crabs, cockles, mussels, sea stars, etc.

If an animal is on the shore of a river, lake, or ocean, it is littoral. If an animal is described as a littoral crab, it means that it lives on the shore of a river, lake, or ocean. Right on the shore line.

A ‘littoral zone’ is an aquatic ecosystem (river, lake, sea) with the presence of sunlight at the sediment level, according to the Biology Dictionary. Its exact distance is different depending on each scientist, but it is usually up to the high-water mark which is exposed to the air. Sometimes, scientists call it the ‘intertidal zone.’ In the ocean, the littoral zone extends to the continental shelf, before the ocean becomes deeper. In wetlands, the littoral zone is the area of land seasonally or permanently affected by the water that contains aquatic plant life, such as wet meadows and marshes.

An animal that is littoral lives very close to water and land, and is mobile (it moves), such as crabs, snails, shrimp, worms, and limpets. It lives on the land or in the water, but not in the air. For example, birds that live around the lake, river, or sea, are not called littoral birds.

Question from: Sally H., 15 years old, Aberdeen, Scotland

Photographer: Martina Nicolls


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