A coral reef is an exciting place because it is so close to the surface of the ocean. Light feeds its plants and animals and they develop into a wide diversity of colors and species. Unfortunately, pollution and global warming are damaging coral reefs every day. It would take thousands of years for these treasures to grow back.
Bright colored anemonefish live in partnership with sea anemones. This relationship is good for the fish because the anemone protects it from predators. The anemone benefits because the fish drops food into it and chases away anemone-eating fish. Over 26 different types of anemonefish share this special relationship.
Blacktip Reef Sharks swim in waters shallow enough for their black-tipped fin to stick out of the water. They grow up to 6 feet long and live in reefs where food is plentiful. These sharks can sometimes leap out of the water like dolphins. They are seen as guardian spirits in the Hawaiian culture.
Heavy and round, the brain coral is a key component to building a coral reef. They get their name from their many folds that look like the surface of the human brain. Once they start growing in a place, it is very difficult to move them. They live in the Red Sea and can grow 6 feet tall or taller.
The Dwarf Seahorse grows up to 1.5 inches long. Its curly tail wraps around seaweed and the seahorse waits for krill or tiny fish to eat. A favorite fact about the seahorse is that the female lays her eggs on the stomach of the male, who feeds the developing eggs and keeps them safe. Once its time for the seahorses to be born, it's the Dad who gives birth!
This anemone is eight inches tall and ten inches across. It doesn't bother eating plankton or veggie bits like its relatives, it likes shrimp and small fish. Painted greenlings, a certain kind of fish, live inside fish-eating anemones and enjoy a special relationship that gives them a home and protection from being eaten.
Giant clams grow to a length of four feet and survive because they partner with a special algae that lives in their tissues. This algae provides the clams with food. Giant clams can only be found in shallow waters up to 66 feet, because that's where the helpful algae thrives.
Sailors once believed that giant octopi would pull down ships and eat men whole. The real giant octopus can reach up to 30 feet and weigh 600 pounds, but is shy and only comes out at night. Much like humans are left or right-handed, octopi have a favorite out of their eight tentacles.
The Nautilus is 150 million years old and has not changed since the age of the dinosaurs. Its shell has up to 30 chambers and it moves by pumping water in and out of them. A nighttime predator, the nautilus swims in shallow waters for food, extending its tentacles to catch prey, and retreats to deeper waters during the day.
Funny-looking parrotfish are bright colored and their faces are pinched, much like a parrot's. Their teeth are fused together and they eat coral by grinding their teeth and spitting out sand. As they eat, parrotfish play a big role in building up coral reefs and providing the sand necessary for the coral reef environment to survive.
Squarespot fish are bright red with pink square spots on their side. They feed on plankton and spend their days eating or doing choreographed dances to attract males. A lot of fish start out one gender and then switch. For example, all squarespot fish start out as females and some switch over and become males.
Staghorn coral is one of the most common types of coral that makes up the world's coral reefs. Overall, there are over 400 types of staghorn coral. Even though it only grows four inches a year, staghorn coral is one of the fastest growers in the coral world and builds most of the world's reefs.
Wolf-eels are nasty predators. They are very flexible and can curl their bodies to fit into the caves and crevices where they live. They hunt at night and spring out of their hiding place at unsuspecting prey. On the cute side, they live in the same cave as their mate, laying eggs and raising a family together.
Zebra sharks have coloring similar to a zebra when they are young. As they age, they turn grey with dark spots, like a leopard. Their extra-long fins are quite a delicacy in China in the form of shark-fin soup, which can go for as much as $100 a bowl. These sharks are in trouble from hunting and laws have been passed to help them survive.