Coral reefs give home to an incredible number of marine animals, coral reef fish presenting the widest variety possible in terms of size, coloring, feeding and mating habits. Large-size, fierce predators are just as easily found in these stunningly rich eco-systems as small fish that serve as prey for the larger species. This biodiversity, however, comes with some features shared by all these fish species as a result of having to adapt to the special conditions of reefs. In what follows, we would like to present a few of these features.
Though the fish species that inhabit coral reefs are all different in coloring and size, they all share a kind of thin, flattened, elongated shape as a result of adaptation. These species developed as a result of millions of years of evolution. The characteristic body shape of these fish species enables the animals to change directions, stop and take turns suddenly and it also makes it possible for the fish to enter the very confined spaces between the corals to search for food.
The color patterns of these fish species also developed as a result of getting adapted to the environment. The first thing you notice when you look at a coral reef fish colony is how colorful they are. The flamboyant colors serve numerous purposes: they facilitate mating by attracting other fish, they serve the purpose of hiding among the colorful corals and they are used as weapons against predators.
Coral reef fish can be categorized into herbivores, like surgeonfish or parrotfish; planktivores; carnivores like butterfly fish, snappers or trigger fish that eat various other animals and piscivores, stalking, pursuing and ambushing predators alike that eat only other fish.
Coral reefs serve as abundant food sources, but the species that live in them need to have special abilities. Most herbivorous species, for example, have beak-like extensions on their heads to facilitate the scraping of the algae off the surfaces of corals. Carnivorous species usually have generalized mouthparts to be able to prey on small animals and other fish.
Predators, prey fish, plant eaters and carnivores are all to be found on coral reefs. These special eco-systems abound not only in colors and shapes, but in behavior patterns as well, making coral reef fish the most spectacular of all fish colonies of the world.