Diversity of reef organisms

A healthy reef supports a rich diversity of organisms.  CLICK ON a "hot" button to see some examples of Caribbean reef plants and animals. Throughout the VIRTUAL DIVE we’ll see these and many other reef-dwellers and will study what they do, how they behave, and how they interact. 

hot buttons for diversity section of BIOLOGY OF CARIBBEAN CORAL REEFS website diversity of corals diversity of gorgonians diversity of sponges diversity of worms diversity of molluscs diversity of crustaceans diversity of echinoderms diversity of tunicates diversity of turtles diversity of fishes diversity of sharks/mammals
icon for crustacean-diversity section of BIOLOGY OF CARIBBEAN CORAL REEFS website


There are almost 3000 species of Caribbean crustaceans, but most are small and/or hidden away. Ones commonly seen by SCUBA-divers include the larger, more colorful types such as crabs, lobsters, and shrimps. Schools of small mysid shrimps are visible as clouds over the reef, and represent an important food source for larval fishes. Several species of crabs inhabit burrows on sand beaches and in mangrove swamps, and hermit crabs are also common in these back-reef habitats.

seahorse dive leader for Biology of Caribbean Coral Reefs website photograph of lobster taken from a video

"Here's a nice lobster, a juvenile. It's a bit unusual to see one outside its den in the daytime. Not so with arrow crabs, though, they wander around the reef day or night with impunity. Maybe they just like to show off their bright blue claws." - Grand Cayman, 2007

NOTE Panulirus argus

Crustaceans visible on the reef during the day include....

photographs of crustaceans visible during the day

...ones attached to floating objects...

goose barnacles attached to floating bambooGoose barnacles Lepas anserifera attached to a piece of floating bamboo 1X

schooling mysid shrimps...ones that swim in schools...

Mysid shrimps Myidium sp. hover in small
clouds over the reef and are eaten by fishes
including juvenile bluehead wrasses 5X

...ones that roam about mainly at night...

night-foraging crustaceans

...ones that live on or near the shore, often in burrows.

semi-terrestrial crabs and hermit crabs that inhabit shore regions
  photograph of female land crab Gecarcinus lateralis with recently discarded eggs
Female crab Gecarcinus lateralis drops its eggs when disturbed during reproductive migration to the sea. The eggs were later successfully hatched to 1st stage zoea larvae in the Discovery Bay Marine Lab, Jamaica and then released into the ocean 1X
Gecarcinus lateralis seeks the safety of its burrow during feeding excursion 0.5X
photograph of semiterrestrial crab Gecarcinus lateralis racing back to its burrow during nighttime foraging