Although shifting, sandy shores can be healthy ecosystems for fish, birds, and land animals.
Extending from the coast to the edge of the continental shelf, this region is one of the most diverse and productive in the Gulf of Mexico. It is also the one of the most changeable.
Daily tides, waves, offshore currents and strong winds continually reshape dunes, shores and shallow seabeds. In some places sand deposits have created barrier islands. These long narrow landforms help protect lagoons and beaches from the destructive effects of wind and waves. The longest barrier island in the world is the Gulf of Mexico's Padre Island.
Air, Land & Sea
Probing for worms, crustaceans and small fishes, shorebirds display considerable variation in length of beak, neck and legs. These adaptations relate to the depth of the water they feed in, the kind of prey they seek and its location in sand, mud or water.
Rays, skates and sharks are cartilaginous fishes that lack the rigid skeleton of bony fishes. Many species prefer the nutrient-rich shallows of the continental shelf. Some are bottom-feeders while others seek their prey higher in the water column.