The life-history patterns of fish and invertebrate species are complex. But much of this complexity can be captured in simple diagrams of coastal transects, where juveniles usually occur in larger numbers in shallow waters, while adults generally inhabit deeper, offshore waters. Iconographic representations of generalized life-history patterns and depth profiles, with specific key life-history parameters can capture much of these standardized patterns, including spawning areas, nursery/juvenile distributions, adult distributions and spawning migrations. Several examples presented here from a wide range of habitats and ecosystems (temperate and tropical waters, demersal, deep water, pelagic and coral reefs), including an example of different stocks of the same species, illustrate some general patterns with regard to water depth and distance from shore. The present approach should be viewed as a first step towards obtaining standardized patterns about key life-history parameters, and will hopefully lead to incorporation into management of life-history interconnectivity between different fishery sectors or gears. This may contribute to sustainable, ecosystem-based approaches to management by informing policy options when faced with decisions to rationalize overcapitalized fisheries.