Meet the Animals: Coral Reefs 

Fishes

Clownfish (Amphiprion ocellaris): Clownfish have a mutualistic symbiotic relationship with sea anemones.  The stinging tentacles of the anemone protect the clownfish from predators.  Because of its mucus coating, the clownfish is immune to the anemone’s sting.  In return, the clownfish defends the anemone from predators that would nibble on its tentacles and acts as lure to draw other fishes in close for the anemone to eat.

Blue Damsel Fish (Chrysiptera parasema): Blue damsel fish can also be called yellowtail damsel fish, and they are one of the smallest species of damsel.  This tiny fish prefers shallow waters and forms schools of three to seven individuals in order to defend itself from predators.

Brown Banded Bamboo Shark (Chiloscyllium punctatum): The brownbanded bamboo shark inhabits  nearshore coral reefs, where it hunts for its favorite foods – crabs, shrimps, and small fishes – at night.  It can find these snacks even in the dark because of its barbels, whisker-like sensory organs that it uses to search through the sand.  Brownbanded bamboo sharks only grow to be about three feet long, and they are not a threat to humans.

Echinoderms

Green Brittle Star (Ophiarachna incrassate): Our green brittle sea star is one of the coolest critters in our collection.  Starfish have the power of regeneration, meaning that if they lose a limb, they can grow a new one.  Sea stars, however, take the power of regeneration to the extreme – the lost arm of a sea star can grow into a whole, new identical starfish!

Arthropods

Pencil Sea Urchin (Eucidaris tribuloides): Our pencil urchin may not look like a relative of our brittle star, but just like the sea star has five arms, our urchin has five teeth.  Despite looking prickly, pencil sea urchins aren’t dangerous to touch.  Their spines are thick and blunt, used for wedging the urchin in rock crevices, not for stabbing unsuspecting toes!

Skunk Cleaner Shrimp (Lysmata amboinensis): Cleaner shrimp are native to coral reefs in the Red Sea as well as the Indian and Pacific oceans.  This shrimp gets its name because it “works” at “cleaning stations” on coral reefs.  Fish approach the station, and the cleaner shrimp picks parasites and dead tissue off the fishes’ gills and scales.  Cleaner shrimp clean inside fishes’ mouths!

Mollusks

Florida Horse Conch (Pleuroploca gigantean): Florida horse conchs are the second largest species of snail in the world.  This carnivorous snail can grow as long as 2 feet!  Its favorite snacks are clams and oysters, which it cracks open using its hard shell.  The Florida horse conch then uses its radula – a tongue like organ covered in tiny teeth – to lick out all the clam or oyster meat.

***Animals subject to change according to season and availability.  If there is a specific animal you would like to meet, let us know, and we will do our best to accommodate you!***

andrew@touchthesea.org          (703) 464-4763          Glen Echo Park Aquarium