Diversity
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 fishe-diversity part of diversity section in BIOLOGY OF CARIBBEAN CORAL REEFS website

Fishes

There is a great diversity of Caribbean fish species, and the best that can be done in this short section on diversity is to show a few of the more common ones, emphasising habitat and/or feeding characteristics.

 


cartoon of seahorse dive leader for BIOLOGY OF CARIBBEAN CORAL REEFS website photograph of reef fishes taken from a video

"There are something like 700 species of fishes in the Caribbean, so all we can see in this Diversity section is a sampling. A good reef like this one will have dozens of species. Someone once counted 75 different species on a 3meter-diameter patch-reef!" - Turneffe Island, Belize. Video courtesy Andy Stockbridge, Belize

NOTE there may be 700 reasonably common species, but the real number of Caribbean fish species is probably well over 1000


Some fishes like groupers and barracudas roam over large areas of the reef....
photographs of fishes that roam the reef

seahorse dive leader in Biology of Caribbean Coral Reefs website tiger grouper swims with a trumpetfish and then confronts a coney

This young tiger grouper is accompanied on its swim over the reef by a trumpetfish, and the pair is in turn chased by a yellowtail damselfish. A second tiger grouper seems greatly interested in a cony...perhaps as something to eat. The coney is attentive, but possibly its large relative size deters the grouper from any aggressive move - Cozumel 2005, Bonaire 2003

NOTE Mycteroperca tigris
NOTE Aulostomus maculatus
NOTE Microspathodon chrysurus


Other species inhabit distinct regions, such as under overhangs, or the face of the reef....
photograph of squirrelfishes and chromises

seahorse dive leader for Biology of Caribbean Coral Reefs website photograph of brown chromis on reef face taken from a video

A common sight above the reef crest in daytime is loose aggregations of brown and blue chromis fishes feeding on planktonic crustaceans. If you look closely you can see the source of feeding excitement in these groups: a fine "snow" of suspended organic matter, much of it is inanimate, but carrying with it small edible zooplankters - Bonaire 2003

NOTE Chromis spp.


Still other species, like damselfishes, occupy, cultivate, and aggressively defend small algal-garden territories from which they feed....
photos of different damselfishes

Some species are strictly carnivorous, such as groupers, snake-eels, porgies, horse-eye jacks, and others...

photo collage of carnivorous fishes
...others are herbivorous....
photo collage of herbivorous Caribbean reef fishes

seahorse dive leader for BIOLOGY OF CARIBBEAN CORAL REEFS website photograph of blue tangs feeding, taken from a video

Blue tangs are herbivorous, and often form into large, colorful feeding aggregations that swarm over the reef. The group here has been joined by several parrotfishes and also some yellowtail snappers. The latter are carnivores, and probably join the tangs to pick up small invertebrates disturbed in the melee...a form of cooperative hunting- Bonaire 2006

NOTE Acanthurus coeruleus

NOTE Ocyurus chrysurus


...or omnivorous....
photo collage of omnivorous fishes

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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