They are among the world’s most fascinating and beautiful ecosystems, home to countless species, each with a unique way of making its living.
- A large humphead wrasse (Cheilinus undulatus) searches for food among the corals in Egypt. Its slightly comical, large, rubbery lips conceal the powerful jaws of a formidable predator, which grows to around 1.5m (5ft) in length. This species, officially listed as endangered, is heavily exploited for the live fish trade, and the global population is now half of what it was 30 years ago.
- The Clown Triggerfish (Balistoides Conspicillum) in Indonesia is one of the most bizarrely painted reef fish. It is thought that the white blobs on its belly help to break up its silhoutte when viewed from beneath and that the yellow pattern on its back does the same when viewed from above. Coral reefs are probably the most colourful places on Earth and, in these clear, sunlit waters, bright colours serve many purposes. As well as providing camouflage and warning of toxicity, colours can differentiate between species, sexes, adults and youngsters.
- Much of the life on coral reefs is devided into day and night shifts. Schoolmaster snappers (Lutjanus Apodus) work the night shift, when they rove around the reef hunting small fish. In areas that are popular for night diving, this species has learned to use the diver’s torch beams to help them feed. The snappers lurk in the shadows until a small fish is dazzled by the light, they then race in and snatch it. During the day they live a much more peaceful life – these fish are resting up beneath a coral ledge in the Cayman Islands.