Coral Reef Animals Animals in the Great Barrier Reef

Colorful fish, coral and other sea animals of the great barrier reef

Photo: Coral reef animals

The Great Barrier Reef, the largest coral reef in the world, has the most diverse range of underwater animals found anywhere in the world. Over 5,653 species of animals live in and around the reef. These include fish, molluscs, echinoderms, sharks, sea snakes, birds, turtles, whales, dolphins, rays and other animals. The smallest animals are microscopic plankton and the largest are massive 100 tonne whales.

Listed below are fascinating examples of the animals of the coral reef. Your can also use the "quick search" button in the menu bar.


Squids are soft-bodied molluscs related to octopus and cuttlefish. They move through the water backwards and are one of the smartest invertebrates.


Mandarin Fish

The beautiful mandarin fish has no scales for protection. Instead, it is covered in smelly toxic mucus and spines to deter predators.



The giant grouper, with its huge mouth, is the largest bony fish in the barrier reef. It can grow to 2.5 meters and weigh 360 kgs.


Sting Ray

Stingrays are flat-bodied fish related to sharks. They eat snails, molluscs, fish, and other small creatures. Their long poisonous barbed tail.


Star Fish

Star fish typically have five arms. They can regenerate lost limbs. They have no brain or blood and use seawater to pump nutrients through their bodies.


Moray Eel

Moray eels are fish with long slender snake-like bodies with a large set of jaws. It hides in crevices and attacks prey that pass by.


Leatherback Turtle

It is the largest turtle of them all. It is called a leatherback because it doesn't have a hard shell but has leathery skin instead.


Hermit Crab

Hermit crabs wear other creatures' shells for protection and change shells when they outgrow them. This crab has attached venomous anemones.


Manta Ray

The manta ray is a flat saucer-shaped fish related to sharks. It is a filter feeder that eats plankton. Its barbed tail is not venomous.


Humphead Wrasse

Also known as the Napoleon Fish, this carnivorous fish eat other fish, sea stars, sea urchins and crabs. They can grow to two metres and weigh 190kg.


Textile Cone

The Textile Cone's harpoon-like tooth can pierce the skin, rubber gloves and wetsuits. Its venom causes respiratory paralysis and eventual death


Blue Ringed Octopus

Blue-ringed octopods are venomous marine animals. They are related to squid and cuttlefish and change colours to suit their environment.


Crown of Thorns Starfish

These multi-armed starfish, with venomous spines, feed on hard coral. Sometimes they grow to plague proportions devastating coral.


Sea Slug

Sea slugs come in all shapes, colours, and sizes and are usually translucent. Their bright colours are a warning to predators that they are poisonous.


Loggerhead Turtle

This turtle is the largest hard-shelled turtle in the world. It feeds on shellfish, crabs, sea urchins, and jellyfish. They are known to travel vast distances.


Green Turtle

Green turtles feed mostly on seagrasses but they also eat venomous box jellyfish. It gets its name from the colour of its fat.


Peacock Mantis Shrimp

The peacock mantis shrimp has the fastest punch in the world, creating small implosions in the water that generates heat, light, and sound.


Boxer Crab

The boxer crab has a very creative way of protecting itself. It attaches two sea anemones to its claws and waves it about the scare off predators.



The nautilus is related to the octopus. It moves by shooting out a stream of water through a siphon. The nautilus catches its prey with 90 long tentacles.



Humpback whales are air-breathing mammals that travel up from the Antarctic. They can grow to 12 – 16 metres and weigh around 36,000 kgs.


Sea Urchin

Sea urchins are non-aggressive and covered in venomous spines. They use their five-pairs of feet with suckers for movement and adhesion.


Lion Fish

A fish with zebra-like stripes and venomous spines, a sting from a spine can be very painful but not fatal to humans.



Dolphins are air-breathing mammals related to whales. They are very vocal and playful. They feed on invertebrates, fish, and squid.


Parrot Fish

Parrot fish are so named because they have front teeth that are fused and look somewhat like to beak of a parrot. They use these teeth to rip off pieces of coral.


Banded Coral Sea Snake

These very venomous snakes swim underwater but still need to surface to breathe. They are excellent swimmers and divers.



There are more than 100 species of jellyfish on the Great Barrier Reef. Only a few are fatal to humans. They use their long tentacles to catch prey.


Bramble Cay melomys

This rodent lived only on Bramble Cay at the northern tip of the Great Barrier Reef. It became extinct in 2015 due to sea-level rise from global warming.


Weedy Sea Dragon

The weedy sea dragon is a fish related to the seahorse. It has a long thin snout for sucking up prey into their toothless mouths.


Types of Animals in The Great Barrier Reef Great Barrier Reef Species Diversity

Great Barrier reef fish

The Great Barrier Reef has the world's most diverse range of underwater animals. These include:

• 1,625 species of fish.
• 360 types of coral.
• 3,000 types of molluscs (like giant clams and the sea slug).
• 215 species of birds.
• 14 species of sea snake.
• 6 out of the world's 7 species of sea turtle (all listed as threatened).
• 630 species of echinoderm ( starfish, sea urchins).
• 30 species of cetaceans (whales and dolphins).
• 22 species of sea birds and 32 species of shorebirds.
• 30 species of dolphins and whales.
• 133 species of sharks and rays.
• 1,300 species of crustaceans (crabs, prawns).
• 450 species of hard coral.
• 40 species of sea anemones.
• 150 species of soft coral and sea pens.
• 100 jelly fish (blue bottle, box jellyfish).
• sponges.

What is The Great Barrier Reef?