It has long been hypothesized that aquatic biomass is evenly distributed among logarithmic body mass size classes. Although this community structure has been observed regionally, mostly among plankton groups, its generality has never been formally tested across all marine life over the global ocean, nor have the impacts of humans on it been globally assessed. Here, we bring together data at the global scale to test the hypothesis from bacteria to whales. We find that biomass within most order of magnitude size classes is indeed remarkably constant, near 1 gigatonne (Gt) wet weight (1015 g), but bacteria and large marine mammals are markedly above and below this value, respectively. Furthermore, human impacts appear to have significantly truncated the upper one-third of the spectrum. This dramatic alteration to what is possibly life's largest-scale regularity underscores the global extent of human activities.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbereabh3732
JournalScience advances
Issue number46
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021


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