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 turtle-diversity section of BIOLOGY OF CARIBBEAN CORAL REEFS website


in common with other oceans of the world, there are 6 species of turtles in the Caribbean Sea. A seventh type, a black variant of the green turtle Chelonia mydas, occurs in the Gulf of California and perhaps elsewhere, but its taxonomic status is uncertain.

seahorse dive leader photograph of hawksbill turtle swimming taken from a video

Hawksbill turtles feed mainly on sponges. Oftentimes a sponge that looks to be badly damaged, broken or chewed away, is just the remnants of a hawksbill turtle's feeding activities - Turneffe Island, Belize 2000 and Turks & Caicos 2003. The first and last segments of video are courtesy of Andy Stockbridge, Belize

NOTE Eretmochelys imbricata

hawksbill turtle
As shown in the video above, hawksbill turtles Eretmochelys imbricata primarily feed on sponges. Hawksbills are without a doubt the most commonly seen turtle species in the Caribbean
female leatherback turtle at her nest
Leatherbacks Dermochelys coriacea are found worldwide. They feed mainly on jellyfishes and other gelatinous prey. Releases of individuals with attached radio-telemetry packs provideduseful data on their migrations. Photo courtesy M. Hastings
loggerhead turtle swims in tank
Loggerhead turtles Caretta caretta, as aare other species of sea turtles, are cosmopolitan throughout the world's oceans. They feed on bottom-dwelling invertebrates. Their common name derives from their large heads
Olive Ridley turtle at its nest site
An olive Ridley turtle Lepidochelys olivacea at its nest site. Olive Ridleys are related to the less commonly seen Kemp's Ridley. Both species are carnivorous, feeding on sea jellies, sea urchins, and other invertebrates; some algae may be eaten
green turtle swims
Green turtles Chelonia mydas primarily eat seagrasses. Along with other sea-turtle species, green turtles are listed as endangered, and it is illegal to catch, harm or eat them. Their name comes from a layer of green fat just under their carapace
black turtle with barnacles
This black turtle Chelonia mydas aggasizzi is being examined by students at Campo Archalon in Bahia de los Angeles, Mexico (see video below). The growths on the turtle's pleuron are parasitic barnacles
black line
seahorse dive leader photograph of a green turtle being readied for release This video shows a radio-tagged green turtle Chelonia mydas being readied for release. The students involved are part of The Sea Turtles of Baja Project, a combined Mexican, Canadian, and American project conducted at Campo Archalon, Bahia de los Angeles in Baja California. The turtle in question is actually the black variant of C. mydas, classified as C. m. agasizzi. Like its green counterpart, it also feeds on various species of seagrasses, but the students found that it readily, and surprisingly, would eat moribund Humboldt squids. The squids used are males, having died after mating, and found on the shore each morning - Bahia de los Angeles, Mexico 2004