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 gorgonian-diversity section of BIOLOGY OF CARIBBEAN CORAL REEFS website


Gorgonians are related to corals. They consist of colonies of polyps supported by a proteinaceous skeleton, and they grow in the shapes of large fans, bushes, and the like.

seahorse dive leader in BIOLOGY OF CARIBBEAN CORAL REEFS website
photograph of gorgonians taken from a video

"This is a really pretty area for gorgonians.  Caribbean-wide, there’s about 50 or so common species" - Little Cayman 2003

Gorgonians are fan-, rod-, or tree-shaped representatives of Order Gorgonacea, and are common representatives of Caribbean coral reefs. Some examples are shown below:
photo composite of common Caribbean gorgonians

photograph of an antipatharian black coral
photograph of arm bracelet made from an antipatharian "black coral"Black-"coral" jewelry is made from the supporting skeleton of "black corals", which actually are neither corals nor gorgonians but, rather, a related group known as antipatharians (Order Antipatharia).  The skeleton of a black coral consists of a black protein material, that can be carved and polished. In
photograph of a rod gorgonian showing degraded tipsheavily-touristed areas of the Caribbean where such jewelry is sold, black corals are often only found only in deep water, because of excessive harvesting.

Arm bracelet made from black "coral",
after polishing and steam-bending


Proteinaceous internal skeleton of a non-jewellry kind of rod gorgonian 0.5X

Black coral Antipathes sp. 0.1X

photograph of red-"coral" jewelry from the Middle East
Red-"coral" jewelry is made from the supporting skeletons of the gorgoanian genus Corallium; a genus not found in the Caribbean region.






Middle-Eastern jewelry made in part from red
"corals" Corallium sp. from the Mediterranean Sea