What types of animals and plants live in the Great Barrier Reef?
Answered by Planet Green
Before we take a glimpse at just how diverse plant and animal life are on the Great Barrier Reef, let's talk about what it is. It might sound singular, but the Great Barrier Reef, off the northeast coast of Australia, actually is made up of 600 different reefs and 300 islands. Interspersed among the reefs are coral or sand islands called cays. The cays were formed by debris piling up against the tops and edges of reefs. There are three major sections to the reef:
- Mackay/Capricorn: In the southernmost section of the reef, the continental shelf becomes increasingly narrow, with many underwater platform and patch reefs.
- Cairns/Central: This section is a popular tourist spot, where the continental shelf is wider and the reefs are farther out to the sea. Here, there are patch reefs or coral islands.
- Far Northern: This section is the closest to the equator, with the richest biodiversity. Here, ribbon reefs predominate with a few fringing and patch reefs.
The Great Barrier Reef's proximity to the equator makes its climate ideal for lush growth of coral and active marine life. They range in type and size, from tiny octopuses to 440-pound (200 kilogram) clams. Here's a partial list of the plants and animals that inhabit the reef:
- 1,500 species of fish
- 4,000 types of mollusk
- 30 species of whales and dolphins
- 103 species of sea worms
- 6 species of sea turtles
- 200 species of birds
- 20 species of sea snakes
Among the whales are dwarf minkes and the mighty humpbacks, and nearly every species of sea turtle in the world can be found on the Great Barrier Reef. Somewhat less animated but still fascinating, the reef is also home to some 500 species of seaweed, including Caulerpa, which is poisonous to things that might wish to eat it and so is able to make a nice living on the reef CRC Reef Research Center. The Great Barrier Reef is a diverse place indeed!
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