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 plant-diversity section of BIOLOGY OF CARIBBEAN CORAL REEFS website


The topic of plants is divided into a section on seaweeds & seagrasses, presented here, and a section on MANGROVES presented in its own file.

seahorse dive leader
photograph of permits swimming into eelgrass area taken from a video

"Oh, check out the permits heading into the turtlegrass…it's a reminder that divers often ignore the plants that make up the reef ecosystem, yet seagrasses and algae are essential for the health of the reef" - Turneffe Island, Belize. Video courtesy Andy Stockbridge, Belize.

NOTE Trachinotus falcatus

Seaweeds & seagrasses
Seaweeds and seagrasses provide food and habitat for many fishes and small invertebrates, and are thus essential for the economy of the reef.
photograph composite of several common plants in the Caribbean Sea

seahorse dive leader photograph of calcareous alga Halimeda taken from a video

Coralline algae are heavily calcified. Some species are encrusting and function to cement the reef; others, such as this species of Halimeda, are erect and on their deaths become pulverised by wave action to form white calcareous sands - Cayman Brac 2004

Several species of calcified algae on their deaths contribute to the fine white sands of Caribbean beaches. The large proportion of calcium carbonate in the tissues provides structural support and is also defensive.
photograph of calcareous alga Halimeda copiosa White patches on Halimeda copiosa may be caused by
exposure to brighter than normal light, which causes photosynthetic pigments to migrate away from the surface tissues.
Littler et
. 1989 Marine Plants of
the Caribbean
. Smithsonian Institution Press.
photograph of calcareous alga Amphiroa sp.

Bleached calcareous
algae Amphiroa sp.

collects on the beach
and is eventually
pulverised into soft,
white sand 0.4X