Volume 5 Number 2
Zoanthids and Corals near San Salvador
The coral reefs of the world are filled with over 3 million different kinds of living things. This reef near the island of San Salvador in the Bahamas is a good example of how many different kinds of living things can be found living close together on a coral reef. Move your mouse across this picture to find some of the many species that were on this reef.
The main subject of this picture is a small colony of Zoanthids (say, "ZOH-an-thids"). Zoanthids are strange little animals. The Zoanthids in this picture look like little gray cups attached to the side of an old coral. Each cup is one animal. This colony may be a species called White Encrusting Zoanthids, named because they grow side by side to form a mat that covers (or encrusts) the surface of an old and dead coral colony. Each animal is about the size of a nickel, just under one-half of an inch across. The animal looks like a cup because its mouth is in the center of its body and is surrounded by a disk of short fleshy tentacles that reach out into the water to catch prey.
Below and to the right of the Zoanthids are two different kinds of corals. First is a colony of Star Corals. These corals look pretty healthy, but the left edge of the colony is being attacked by an Orange Icing Sponge. Check out a closeup photo of an Orange Icing Sponge in the ReefNews Gallery of Corals. To the right of the Star Corals is a colony of Encrusting Gorgonian Corals. Encrusting Gorgonian Corals look the ends of spaghetti, so I like to call these corals Spaghetti Corals.
Just above the Zoanthid colony, the top of the dead coral skeleton is covered by plants. These plants are a type of algae called Y-Branch Algae. Y-Branch Alga gets its name because each leaf looks like the letter Y.
There are two other kinds of plants in this picture. To the right of the Encrusting Gorgonian Spaghetti Corals is a small clump of Saucer Leaf Algae. And near the bottom left of the picture is a clump of Leafy Round-Bladed Algae.
In the background are several colonies of tall Sea Rod Corals. Sea Rod Corals are one of the most common corals on Caribbean reefs. You can see closeup pictures of the polyps of one type of Sea Rod Corals on the ReefNews Gallery of Corals, at http://www.reefnews.com/reefnews/photos/corals/softpolp.html, and learn more about how Sea Rod Corals can be habitat even for large fishes at http://www.reefnews.com/reefnews/photos/corals/habitat.html
To the left of the Zoanthid colony is a small yellow fish. This fish is a juvenile Blueheaded Wrasse. It is identified by its shape, yellow color, the black stripe on its side, and the small black dot on its pectoral fin.
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