Although it is not always clear on which animals are actually part of coral reef environments, it’s important to make a note of what animals live in the coral reef and the ones that merely visit the reef ecosystem in search of food or other resources. Coral reefs are extremely diverse, and there are hundreds of different types of corals inhabiting the world’s ocean right now. While they may be under threat corals are still able to house millions of different species of vertebrate and invertebrate animals; in fact, they offer food and shelter to just about 1/3 of all marine life species in the ocean.
Before considering the question of what animals live in the coral reef, it is essential to first talk about the types of corals that are able to sustain other marine creatures. The distinction here is made between soft and hard corals. While soft corals, such as pulse corals, carnation corals and tree corals, basically look like beautiful trees or plant life living underwater, the hard corals are the ones in charge of building the large, durable and quite intricate coralline structures that house so many other species of marine animals. Their dead skeletons essentially become the foundation for future generations of stony corals. Examples of hard corals include such species as elkhorn coral or brain coral.
What animals live in the coral reef and populate coral reefs the most? The answer has to be invertebrates. These are the most numerous and the most diverse types of animals on the reef. The include such species as sponges, mollusks, echinoderms and crustaceans. Echinoderms are strange, spiny skinned animals, while filter feeding sponges typically eat up tiny food particles near the ocean floor. Mollusks, such as gastropods and cephalopods are mainly bottom-dwelling invertebrates, and crustaceans are among the most commonly known invertebrates, including lobsters, crabs and shrimp.
Vertebrate coral reef animals consist of some of the most well-known animals inhabiting the reef. Thousands of species of fish, as well as sea snakes, sea turtles and manatees form the bulk of these creatures. Some sea mammals also visit the reef from time to time primarily in order to feed, and larger vertebrate species like sharks and whales are often found in the vicinity of coral reefs.