The Great Barrier Reef is the largest structure on earth made by living organisms. A vast array of marine life is dependent on the Great Barrier Reef, such as whales, dolphins, sea turtles, and about 5,000 species of mollusks. Over 1,500 species of fish are inhabiting the Great Barrier Reef. Massive cartilaginous fish such as manta rays, tiger sharks and whale sharks are living here. The most abundant fish are damselfish, wrasses, and tushfish. There are also blennies, butterfly fish, triggerfish, cowfish, pufferfish, angelfish, anemone fish, coral trout, seahorses, sea perch, sole, scorpion fish, hawkfish, and surgeonfish.
The reefs are significant to the survival of some endangered species. Coral reefs form complex ecosystem with tremendous biodiversity. About 25% of marine fish species settle in the coral reef that only occupies less than 1% of the surface area of the world oceans.
Every year so many tourists are visiting the Great Barrier Reef. They dive or snorkel in order to see the wonderful underwater world. The fabulous fish are one of the attractions. Do you really know the beautiful fish? Can you name them? Do you know their peculiar habits?
CORAL REEF FISH
Coral reef fish live amongst or in close relation to coral reefs. Most of them are very colorful. People love to observe the lovely fish. Even in a small area of coral reef, there could be hundreds of species. Coral reef fish have some unique characteristics. Have you ever wondered why they are so colorful? It’s coloration, which is a method of camouflage. Coloration can help coral reef fish rest within the right background, help them recognize species during mating, or threaten predators. The Great Barrier Reef fish are in all the colors of the rainbow: blue, red, orange, purple and green.
Reef fish have different body shapes from open water fish. To minimize friction when they move in the water, open water fish evolve the streamlined body. However, reef fish have flattened bodies. Compared with the speed, the maneuverability is more vital to reef fish. The flattened bodies help them change direction easier and faster.
Reef fish also have evolved complex adaptive behaviors. They hide in reef crevices or get together for social reasons. In this way, they can protect them from predators.
There are several major fish species in the Great Barrier Reef. Here they are:
Clown Fish, or anemone fish, belonging to the Damselfish family. There are 28 species all over the world. Generally, they are in small size (16cm maximum in length). They have orange coloration. The most common species have three white bars narrowly edged in black across their bodies.
Anemone fish have a special relationship with sea anemones, which is known as a symbiotic relationship. The tentacles of sea anemones could sting and kill some other fish. However, there are 10 species of sea anemones to be the home for the clown fish. The clown fish coat themselves with a layer of mucus to become immunity. The clown fish are able to change sex in their lifetime, and the males take care of the nest and eggs.
Surgeon Fish, or Tang, can be found in tropical oceans. There are about 80 species. Their body shape is oval and flat. They feed on algae or zooplankton with their small mouths. Surgeon fish have a blade and venomous fin spines, which could protect them from predators and other surgeon fish.
Surgeon fish can change their color according to their mood. They can instantly change the color when a predator appears. In various locations, the color of the same species can be slightly different.
The most famous surgeon fish is the blue tang, because of “Finding Nemo”. Generally, blue tangs are found on the seaward edge of coral reefs. They love to travel in schools across the Great Barrier Reef. They can be 3 times larger than the clown fish (38cm long).
Coral Trout are normally pinky or red with scattering blue spots. Some from shallow waters are olive or brown. You possibly find them on a restaurant menu. People are familiar with the delicious fish.
Coral trout are likely to stick nearby their home reef. They can live for 18 years at maximum and weigh 26kg at most. Coral trout have a large mouth and sharp conical teeth. They are an ambush predator, feeding on various reef fish.
Coral trout begins life as a female, and change to a male when they at 4 to 6 years of age. This strategy can optimize the female/male ratio and maximize reproductive output.
Parrot Fish is the most easily recognized due to their teeth. The teeth fuse together, which is very unique and quite useful for scratching algae off the surface of the coral. Parrot fish also feed on soft and hard corals. Their teeth help them chew the corals.
There are more than thirty species parrot fish on the Great Barrier Reef. They vary in colors and patterns, including blues, greens, and yellows. They are one of the most visible species in the Great Barrier Reef. Snorkelers could easily see them in the Great Barrier Reef.
Another peculiar habit about parrot fish is that they use their teeth to triturate coral and excrete them as sand. It’s said that about 30% of the coral sand you see at the reef is parrot fish excretion.
Butterfly Fish are also easy to recognize in the Great Barrier Reef. They are in thin and rounded body shape. Yellow is the most common color amongst the butterfly fish. They eat coral polyps and algae on the reef.
Butterfly fish can be found on coral reefs all over the world. Normally, they travel in pairs and when they find a partner, they stay together for life. Very romantic, right?
SOME INTERESTING FACTS:
Clown fish can swim 9.5 body lengths per second, 24 hours after hatching.
Seahorse is the slowest horse on earth that will cost 2.5 days to travel 1km.
The Red bass can live over 50 years.
The whale shark can grow up to 12m long.
All Great Barrier Reef fish have ears. Scientists can only figure out their age through their ear bone.
Can’t wait to explore and know these lovely fish by yourself? Don’t forget to take Seabeast AF90 full face snorkel mask. With its 100% fog-free performance, you can easily observe fish and other marine life. Have a nice trip, and subscribe to know more interesting knowledge.