People visit beautiful Bermuda for many reasons – sun, sea and sand being the most popular. But for keen divers and snorkellers, the Caribbean coral reefs that surround the region provide one of the best places in the world to encounter the magnificent and abundant marine life of the Atlantic Ocean. |
For those taking a closer interest in the fish and coral, learning a little more about the residents of this stunning submerged world can greatly enhance the experience of exploring the Caribbean coral reefs on a diving or snorkelling expedition.
Personally, I find it an endlessly fascinating subject – as you may be able to tell.
The Fish of the Caribbean Coral Reefs
There are between 500-600 known species of fish in the Greater Caribbean region. Science (and common sense) tells us that marine life doesn't achieve and maintain that kind of abundance without some very specialised physical adaptations and feeding strategies.
Different Types of Reef Dwelling Fish
Categorised by their feeding strategies, the four different kinds are:
Herbivores – feeding exclusively on plant matter
Planktivores – feeding on microscopic zooplankton (animals)
Piscivores – subsisting mainly on other, smaller fish by pursuing, stalking or ambush hunting methods
Benthic Carnivores – feeding on smaller fish and invertebrates
***Interestingly, these categories are not set in stone and the fish may move between them at different stages of their life.
Physical Adaptations to Life on a Coral Reef
The environment of a reef is entirely different to that of an open ocean so, as a consequence, the marine life it supports must adapt to these structural differences with its own physical adaptations.
Colour: While we may think that the vibrant, colourful and startlingly beautiful appearance of many of the fish species is for our personal viewing pleasure, the truth is Mother Nature has her own reasons. The colours have evolved for very specific functions, including as a warning to predators, for recognition (of mates) and for concealment amongst the equally colourful coral.
Shape: The shape of the fish of the Caribbean coral reefs differs quite markedly from elsewhere. Their bodies are very flat and thin, which enables them to make sharp, sudden turns to get around the coral growths. The adaptation also extends to their pelvic and pectoral fins, which are placed in an optimum position for agility and speed.
Specialised Feeding Strategies
Naturally, the reef environment also offers an entirely different smorgasbord of food than the open ocean. With a mixture of herbivorous and carnivorous species, both have developed some specialised feeding strategies to maximise their uptake.
Herbivorous species: The herbivores have evolved their mouths in a number of ways. Surgeonfish, for example, have very small mouths with lots of tiny teeth, which helps them access macro-algae on the coral. Parrotfish, on the other hand, prefer micro-algae, so have developed larger mouths that resemble a bird's beak.
Carnivorous species: The many species that feed on smaller fish and invertebrates have what is termed more 'generalised' mouths, which affords them the physicality to hunt and devour prey species as well as feeding on algae when necessary.
Discover a Whole New World
To me, the marine life that exists in the calm, warm waters of the Atlantic that surrounds Bermuda is as spectacular and appealing as the physical landscape of the region itself. If you're planning a visit, I strongly urge you to take the opportunity to discover this magnificent underwater world.
John Dixon is an experienced world traveller and the Managing Director of Prestige Holidays. If you're interested in exploring the magnificent Caribbean coral reefs around Bermuda, John can help find your perfect accommodation. An expert in luxury accommodation in Bermuda, Croatia, Sicily and many other destinations around the globe for over 30 years, John tries to visit each of the destinations regularly in order to ensure the quality of his properties and stay up-to-date about the latest local news and events. He has a taste for the finer things in life and has an interest in arts, history and culture.
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