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Australia’s Great Barrier Reef (or the GBR as it is known to reef aficionados) stretches for more than 2,300 kilometers (over 1,429 miles) and can be seen from outer space. This largest barrier reef...
Overview MORE STORIES Overview MORE AUDIO / VIDEO
Welcome to Moorea, a tiny, isolated island in the middle of the vast Pacific...
Slideshow MORE STORIES Slideshow MORE AUDIO / VIDEO
Coral reefs are beautiful, vibrant ecosystems that house roughly one quarter of...
Coral reefs are some of the most endangered ecosystems on the planet that are...

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A master of disguise, the pygmy seahorse ( Hippocampus bargibanti ) grows to only 2cm in length and matches the gorgonian coral that it lives on. The pygmy seahorse is so successful at hiding that it was not found until its home...
Just like other seahorse species, male weedy sea dragons are the ones to get...
Compare the healthy coral on the left with the bleached coral on the right...

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Coral reefs are the most diverse of all marine ecosystems. They teem with life, with perhaps one quarter of all ocean...
This photo of Kingman’s Reef in the Line Islands shows what a healthy coral reef should look like. The water is crystal clear. A variety of richly colored corals carpet the seabed. And a native...
What are corals? Corals themselves are animals. But tropical reef-building corals have tiny plant-like organisms living in their tissue. The corals couldn’t survive without these microscopic algae–...
by Amanda Feuerstein On the east coast of Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula lies a small marine protected area that represents one of the most impressive successes in ocean conservation. Cabo Pulmo...
The pre-industrial American landscape was once rightly described as a place where “the deer and the antelope roam.” On land, we take it for granted that the plant-eating deer and antelope far...
Sponges are animals that eat tiny food particles as they pump water through their bodies. They are very common on Caribbean coral reefs, and come in all shapes, sizes and colors. There is great...
There aren't any mummies or zombies buried under the seafloor: instead the ocean has its own terror from below, the bobbit worm ( Eunice aphroditois ). A couple inches wide and up to ten feet long,...
Remotely located in the central Pacific Ocean, south of Hawaii, the Line Islands provide a remarkable research opportunity. The archipelago includes coral reefs reflecting the whole spectrum of...
Two large coral trout ( Plectropomus leopardus ) swim through a coral reef on Taveuni Island in Fiji. Coral trout are highly desired fish for human consumption, and because of overfishing, are...
How biodiverse is one coral reef compared to another? To find out, in Spring 2012, Smithsonian scientist Chris Meyer his students in the Indonesian Biodiversity Research Center (IBRC) course counted...
Nine years ago I was invited by a colleague to join a research team investigating deep-sea coral habitats . I was asked to examine the invertebrates associated with these ecosystems. After my first...
This is an unidentified moray eel , collected from 650 feet off the coast of Curacao. Morays are very secretive animals that tend to stay hidden in caves and crevices. Researchers with the Deep Reef...
Dr. Stephen Cairns is a research zoologist and chair of the Department of Invertebrate Zoology at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. His research focuses on the diversity,...
This close-up photograph of gold coral ( Gerardia sp. ) was taken at the Cross Seamount in the Pacific Ocean at a depth of 400 m (1,312 ft). Gold corals at this location can have lifespans of 2,000...
This forest of Christmas tree worms is a group of polychaete worms that live on tropical coral reefs. See more celebratory ocean creatures in our slideshow!
The majestic and highly predatory red lionfish ( Pterois volitans ) , native to the Indo-Pacific, is invading Atlantic waters. The lionfish is a popular home aquarium species, and some were most...
Dr. Amy Baco-Taylor observed corals like these on her first submarine dive to a deep-sea coral bed off the coast of Hawaii. They include primnoids, zoanthids, and Gerardia . The high density and...
The long silver tool shown here is a piece of traditional Australian fishing gear called a “yabbie pump.” Researchers use the device to collect burrowing shrimp and other fast-moving animals from the...
Corals are not only found in shallow tropical waters, but in cold, dark, deep areas of the sea. Amazing coral forests are found at depths of 60-3,050 meters (200-10,00 feet). They support an...
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