Biology of Caribbean Coral Reefs
Go on a Virtual Dive!


The BIOLOGY OF CARIBBEAN CORAL REEFS is presented as a VIRTUAL DIVE, with text, photographs, and videos. All topics in BCCR  are "stand-alone", but there is a kind of order as presented in the drop-down menu above left.

The ORDER is as follows. First comes a description of types of Caribbean reefs, including how they form and threats to their survival. Next comes an overview of their biodiversity including a small section on mangroves. There is also an account of potentially dangerous reef organisms. Later sections tell how organisms recruit to the reef, the hazards they face as larvae and juveniles, the role of asexual reproduction in recruitment, how as adults they compete for space and other vital resources, and the ways in which they live together. In other sections you will learn about nutrition of coral-reef organisms, including photosynthesis, herbivory, carnivory, detritivory, and bacterivory.  The VIRTUAL DIVE concludes with a description of the many and varied defenses of reef organisms, and the role that colours play in behaviour and survival.

There are about 300 videos and 2600 illustrations, including photographs, drawings, graphs, and cartoons.  A comprehensive search device is included.

NOTE the BCCR is an ongoing project,  so don't hesitate to give me suggestions/corrections at

NOTE for information on a particular organism does one search for common name or scientific name?: the more precise method of searching is to use the complete binomial scientific name (e.g., Condylactis gigantea for the giant anemone). However, you can use just the genus name (e.g., Condylactis), in which case you may bring up references to other species in the same genus, or you can use just the species name (e.g., gigantea), in which case you will get not onlly all the giant-anemone references, but also all other organisms with the same species name (probably not many). If you use common names in your search you may have difficulty, as there can be many different common names for the same organism. For example, other names for the giant anemone Condylactis gigantea include pink-striped anemone, condy anemone, Haitian anemone, giant Caribbean sea anemone, purple-tipped anemone, Caribbean anemone, giant sea anemone, and purple Haitian anemone. If you were to search for the giant anemone using any of these other names, you would be out of luck. The search word "anemone" alone, however, would bring up all anemones including C. gigantea, which you could then sort through. The search word "giant" alone would be less useful, as you would get a variety of Caribbean organisms including C. gigantea. This potential problem has been made a little bit easier by using, as much as possible, the common names suggested by Paul Humann in his series of Reef Identification publications.

Finally, secondary or tertiary sortings of search results can be made by including other search items such as author or topic. Thus, following the example above, all Condylactis entries could be further sorted to ones relating to topics of diet, reproduction, defense, or what-have-you. How the index can be used should be obvious once you get started.


You can access topics via the drop-down menu at the top of each page, or via the various links shown in blue throughout the text. All my own photographs and videos in BCCR are free for the taking. If, however, there is a "courtesy of..." descriptor, it means they belong to someone else and you must contact the person named for permission to use them. If you do use any resource item an acknowledgement and link to BCCR would be appreciated.


Special acknowledgements: the idea for BCCR was really motivated by the publication of several wonderfully illustrated books on Caribbean flora and fauna including Paul Humann’s series of  descriptive guides, Ned Deloach’s fascinating account of reef-fish behaviour, and the Littler’s comprehensive guide to marine plants.  By opening the scientific literature for specific references to the reef and its inhabitants, these books have been invaluable in creating the BCCR. I have strived for accuracy throughout the work, but I know that there will be many mistakes and omissions.  Input from you on any aspect of the production is welcome.  You can reach me at

Special contributions of video and photographs from friends and colleagues are acknowledged elsewhere (see Thanks accessible from the menu above).

Schooling fishes -Turks & Caicos

Throughout the VIRTUAL DIVE your seahorse dive-leader will explain what you are seeing. Whenever the dive leader appears, a video accompanies it. Simply CLICK ON the video in the usual way to see it. A description accompanies each video, usually in both voice and written forms. If you wish to view in silence, you will have to turn off your computer's sound. 

This first video is included here as an example.  It is actually taken from another section in BCCR dealing with schooling.


Cindy Young, a website guru of MOUSETRAP MULTIMEDIA was the motivating force in producing the first BCCR.  Its design and format are her inspiration. Recently, with her help and encouragement the entire site has been made over with a cleaner, easier-to-use format, and we thank her for that!

On that note, if you would like to contribute photographs or video from your Caribbean dives, then please don't hesitate. When you think about it, photographing- and filming-SCUBA-divers are the ones on the spot, with first-hand knowledge of what is going on, and there are thousands of you. Such contributions would be interesting and provocative, and could lead researchers aong new and different lines of exploration. It would make the BCCR participatory and certainly more topical. Contributions will of course be acknowledged where they appear and will also include a link to your favourite dive-Club or personal website if you wish.