The World’s Largest Coral Reef System: The Great Barrier Reef

A limestone masterpiece, the Great Barrier Reef is constructed entirely of coral.

There are over 350 species of coral, thrive in clear, warm water. Because they require sunlight to grow, coral have developed many techniques to take advantage of the sunlight that filters through the water.

Research suggests that a single coral reef can host about 200 species of fish. One such species is the Sacoglossan seaslug, which has a coat of brightly colored leaves with glands that expel toxin when attacked.

Many types of predators also make their homes in coral reefs. The trumpet fish, for example, attempts to blend in with the grazing parrotfish. However, when the parrotfish is fooled, the trumpet fish attacks and eats its prey. Additionally, sharks can be found on coral reefs, but they are not as common as some may think. Most sharks live in deep water, while coral typically grows in shallow water.

Since there are many animals hunting each other in the Great Barrier Reef, creatures form partnerships for protection. For instance, many fish species partner with sea anemone. The fish produce waste, which the sea anemone consume. In return, the anemone allow the fish to hide among them when they are being attacked. The sea anemone also produce carbohydrates, helping the fish grow stronger. Tiny gobies and the alpheid shrimp also partner for security on the sandy floor between reefs. A group of alpheid shrimp dig a burrow while the gobies search for food and keep watch for predators. When the gobies see danger, they signal the shrimp by flicking their tails.

While it is clear that the Great Barrier Reef is home to many creatures, there remains much more to discover about this aquatic ecosystem!

[Source: Wildlife Explorer]