There aren’t many movies that make me want to sing like the classic Disney princess movies little mermaid. From “under the sea” to “part of your world”, this fin– The believable 1989 animation production has some characters based on real marine species…but, I have to say, some of them can be surprising. Is Sebastian really a crab? Does the flounder’s name reflect his actual species? Well, friends, you will find out.Dive deep and meet four real marine species behind the wildlife cast little mermaid!


crab on stonecrab on stone
© Francesco Ungaro

While many viewers thought the blunt Jamaican crustacean was some kind of crab, there were also claims to the contrary, suggesting he was actually a lobster. According to science, calling him a crab is probably the most accurate. Sebastian doesn’t seem to have a pair of tentacles like a lobster, nor a very long tail. What best describes him as a crab: his color. If Sebastian were a lobster and the color was bright red… well, he wouldn’t be alive. Only cooked lobster can achieve this vibrant appearance. They are more muted in color and have more brown or orange tints underwater.


An angel fish in the oceanAn angel fish in the ocean
© Bob Mars: Creative Commons

While we’re on the subject of species drama…this one might make you laugh.Flounder, Ariel’s loyal and colorful companion, is definitely no flounder. There seems to be consensus that the flounder is most likely some kind of angelfish or other similar brightly colored reef fish.While the exact species has never been agreed upon, two things can be said for sure: flounder may be angelfish, but most definitely no flounder.

Flotsam + Jetsam

Two eels in the oceanTwo eels in the ocean
© Katerina Katopis / Ocean Image Bank

These two slippery duo lead the villain little mermaid, Ursula, is a pair of moray eels. There are actually about 200 species in the moray family, and new species are being discovered. These elusive critters are ferocious predators: Not only do they have very strong teeth, but they also have two sets of jaws, one of which is located at the back of the throat, called the pharyngeal jaw. Once they grab their prey with their primary jaws, a second set of jaws pulls the food back into the eel’s esophagus. No wonder Ursula sends these slimy invertebrates to do some of her dirty work!


seagulls cry on the beachseagulls cry on the beach
© Peter F.Wolf

This silly character is a seagull (this one might not be all that surprising). With more than 50 species of gulls scattered around the world, it’s hard to determine exactly what kind of gull Scuttle should be. Anyway, an interesting fact about seagulls is that they have the unique ability to drink seawater. While salt water can cause rapid dehydration in humans, seagulls have supraorbital glands above their eyes that are responsible for removing salt from the blood. This desalination process helps them become experts at sea survival.

Guys, you have it: Four actual sea animals behind some stars little mermaidIn addition to being cast in this Disney movie, all of these species have one thing in common: They all count on us to protect them and their marine home. Be sure to visit the Marine Conservancy’s Action Center to learn about the latest ways you can advocate for our blue planet and all of its resident wildlife today!

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