What is Continental Shelf: Define, Formation & Facts About

The continental shelf is the sloping undersea plain between a continent and the deep ocean. It is an underwater landmass which extends from a continent resulting in an area of relatively shallow water known as a shelf sea. The geology of continental shelves is often similar to that of the adjacent exposed portion of the adjacent exposed portion of the continents, and most shelves have a gently rolling topography called ridge and swale. Continental shelves continue underwater and eventually drop off into the deeper parts of the oceans. Much of the continental shelf was exposed to dry land during glacial periods.

The formation of continental shelf:

The formation of continental shelf

Organic and inorganic materials formed organic shelves. Organic materials build up the rivers carries sediments like bits of rock, and gravel to the edges of the continent and into the oceans. The sea level can also rise, submerging a portion of the continent. Part of a shelf can also rise above the water and become part of the continent or the sea level may drop. Oil and gas are formed from an organic material that accumulates on the continental shelf. Over time the material is buried and transformed into oil and gas by heat and pressure. The oil and gas move upward and is concentrated beneath geologic trap.

Continental shelf diagram:

Continental shelf diagram

Continental shelf located:

Continental shelf located

Continental shelf in animals

A continental shelf extends from the coastline of a continent, resulting in the area of relatively shallow water known as a shelf sea. The continental shelf is the shallow part of the ocean that is essentially a continuation of the coast but under water. It is the shallowest part of the ocean near the cost, the ocean gets deeper as you move further into the ocean beyond the continental shelf. It is mostly found at the interference between oceanic and continental plates.

Continental shelf in animals:

Facts about continental shelf


The continental shelf is the underwater landmass which extends from a continent. Large marine animals including herring, capelin, Bluefin tuna, and mackerel flourish in areas of the continental shelf where rich supplies of nutritious phytoplankton rise from the shelf floor and zooplankton. The continental shelf is the submerged part of a continent that reaches under an ocean from the shoreline to the shelf break where the slope drops down. This shelf extends hundreds of miles in some cases. Nutrients from the river deposits and from fertile soil that roils up from deeper water during storms create various suitable habitats for plants and animals life.

Facts about continental shelf:

Facts about continental shelf

  • The continental slope can have a drop of up to 3,000 m (10,000 ft). Furthermore, if it descends into a deep-sea trench, it can have a drop of up to 10,000 m (33,000 ft).
  • As in the case of the continental shelf, the continental slope in the Pacific Ocean is steeper than the slope in the Atlantic. The Indian Ocean, in contrast, has the least steep continental slope.
  • In the ocean, the temperature drops and pressure increases with depth. That explains why the water is so cold and the pressure is unusually high at the continental slope.
  • The list of animals found on the continental slope may not be lengthy, but has some interesting species to its credit. These include a variety of deep-sea rockfishes, rattails, hagfishes, Dover soles, species like flashlight fish and headlight fish, deep-sea red crabs, etc.

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