Much more than just fish and coral
More than just fish and coral
While most people are familiar with the colourful corals and the beautifully bright fish, other creatures on the reef are just as intriguing. First-time visitors can expect to be amazed at the many thousands of animals found throughout the reef. The variety of organisms found beneath a coral rock is astonishing, ranging from different types of colourful encrusting sponges, softer colonial and solitary sea squirts, delicate lace corals or bryozoans, slithering serpent stars and worms, and scores of colourful and oddly shaped animals.
The reef can be compared to a big city with its inhabitants going about their business during the day and others coming to life at night.
The Great Barrier Reef is one of the most complex ecosystems on the planet
A complex ecosystem
The reef is a complex ecosystem with many animals relying on each other for food and survival. Virtually all major and minor groups of living things are abundantly represented in the reef. Only tropical rainforests come close to rivalling the reef for richness of species.
Creatures of the Reef
Marine animals on the Great Barrier Reef include:
- 350 types of hard coral;
- 5,000 to 8,000 molluscs and thousands of different sponges, worms, crustaceans, and other less familiar creatures;
- about 800 species of echinoderms (starfish, sea urchins);
- 1,500 species of fishes;
- 22 species of seabirds that live and breed on the islands within the marine park;
- more than 30 species of marine mammal; and
- 6 species of marine turtles, all listed as threatened.
Whales and dugongs
The Reef is also the breeding area for a number of rare and endangered animal species. Humpback whales come from Antarctica to give birth to their young in Reef waters. Six of the world's seven species of sea turtle breed on the reef, and dugongs make their home within the sheltered seagrass beds.