The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef and home to an astounding number of fascinating and rare marine animals. In fact, the Great Barrier Reef is a complex ecosystem made up of over 2800 coral reefs with such incredible diversity and richness of species that it is comparable to the diversity of species found in the tropical rain forest.
Expanding over 23000 square kilometers off the coast of Queensland Australia, the Great Barrier Reef contains over 1500 species of marine fish, 6 species of marine turtles, 125 species of sharks, 200 species of birds as well as a variety of sea snakes, whales, dolphins and dugongs.
The Great Barrier Reef is a breeding area for whales, specifically Humpback whales that migrate from Antarctica to give birth to their young. It is also home to six of seven endangered species of sea turtle including the Green Sea Turtle, the Leatherback Turtle, the Hawksbill Turtle, the Loggerhead Turtle, the Flatback Turtle and the Olive Ridley Turtle.
There are fourteen species of sea snakes inhabiting the reef. These marine reptiles come to the surface to breathe and then spend approximately two hours underwater between breaths. The species of sea snakes found in the Great Barrier Reef are classified as true sea snakes that inhabit the tropical waters of Australia.
The Dugong or Sea Cow is also an endangered species. Some of the largest populations of this marine mammal can be found in the shallow waters of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. It is a major feeding ground for the Dugong which is why the number of Dugongs in Australia is higher than anywhere else in the world. The Great Barrier Reef was nominated as a World Heritage Site in 1981 due to its importance as a feeding ground and home to the vulnerability of the Dugong.
There are over 1500 species of marine fish living amongst the crannies and crevices of the Great Barrier Reef. Some of the species include manta rays, angelfish, dwarf goby fish, red bass and coral trout. One of the largest species of fish that can be found in the area is the whale shark which can grow up to 12 meters in length.
In addition to the various species of fish, whales, dolphins, sea snakes and turtles, there are an astonishing number of birds that frequent the islands and waters of the Great Barrier Reef. There are over 200 species of birds with approximately 40 of them classified as sea birds. There are also 54 sea bird colonies that nest and breed amongst the neighboring islands. These include Pelicans, Soot Terns, Silver Gulls, Michaelmas Cay, Common Noddies and crested and lesser-crested terns.
The Great Barrier Reef is a treasure trove of biological and marine diversity. The magnificent corals and astounding diversity of life is what makes the Great Barrier Reef one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.