Animals

To report a stranded, sick or dead marine animal phone 1300 ANIMAL (1300 264 625).

More than just fish and coral

The Great Barrier Reef is home to a stunning array of animals, from microscopic plankton to whales weighing more than 100 tonnes. More than just fish and coral, the Great Barrier Reef supports:

  • 1625 species of fish, including 1400 coral reef species
  • More than 3000 species of molluscs (shells)
  • 630 species of echinoderm (starfish, sea urchins)
  • 14 breeding species of sea snakes
  • 215 species of birds including 22 species of seabirds and 32 species of shorebirds
  • Six of the world's seven species of marine turtle
  • 30 species of whales and dolphins
  • One of the world's most important dugong populations
  • 133 species of sharks and rays
  • ....and much more

The different types of animals found along the Great Barrier Reef help make it one of the richest and most complex natural systems on earth. While there is a lot known about some of the animals that make the Reef home, vast amounts of information and species are yet to be discovered.

The Great Barrier Reef Biodiversity Strategy

All Great Barrier Reef animals are just one part of its immense biodiversity. The Great Marine Park Authority works to protect and conserve all elements of biodiversity. The development of a Biodiversity Strategy is a priority task that will assist all users and industries that rely on the Reef’s magnificent ecosystem.

Species of conservation concern

The Great Barrier Reef is a refuge for many species of conservation concern. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority works to protect marine animal species that are threatened, iconic or at risk.

By working closely with state and federal government and the community, threats to species can be identified and appropriate management actions can occur.

Protected species are those that are protected by law and need special management.

Snapshot of Reef animals

Marine mammals (whales, dolphins, dugong,seals) More than 30 species of marine mammals are found along the Great Barrier Reef. Bottlenose dolphins, humpback and dwarf minke whales are frequently seen while other species such as Bryde's whales are seldom seen or perhaps seldom recognised. The Great Barrier Reef is an important habitat for dugong.
Birds, seabirds and shorebirds

Islands and cays along the Great Barrier Reef support breeding populations of 22 seabird species.

Areas of international significance for migratory and resident species of shorebirds are found on, or adjacent, to the Great Barrier Reef.

Marine turtles Six of the worlds seven species of marine turtle occur on the Great Barrier Reef with globally significant nesting areas for four of these found in the Region. All six species are classified as threatened as a result of pressures both from within the Great Barrier Reef Region and elsewhere.
Crocodile The estuarine crocodile can be found in most coastal waters and around many of the islands and cays of the Great Barrier Reef.
Sea snakes Sitting in a global hotspot of sea snake diversity, the Great Barrier Reef is home to 14 different species of sea snake. This high number of different species is largely due to the Marine Park's variety of suitable habitat.
Sharks and rays 133 species are found along the Great Barrier Reef and range from small, cryptic species such as the epaulette shark to large, migratory species such as the whale shark.
Fishes Around 1625 of bony fish species including important commercial species such as coral trout.
Echinoderms About 630 species recorded along the Great Barrier Reef, with starfish perhaps being the most well known.
Crustaceans Around 1300 species, including a number that are commercially important (for example, some species of crabs and prawns).
Molluscs More than 3000 species known from the Great Barrier Reef. This group includes  clams, oysters, squid, octopus, cuttlefish, nautilus, nudibranchs, chitons and snails.
Hard corals The signature group of the Great Barrier Reef with more than 450 species known.
Sea anemones Around 40 species recorded along the Great Barrier Reef.
Soft corals and sea pens At least 150 species known from the Great Barrier Reef. With their swaying bodies and jelly like feel, soft corals bodies are made up of a large number of polyps connected by fleshy tissue.
Jellyfish More than 100 species recorded along the Great Barrier Reef, including blue bottles and box yellyfish. Large adult jellyfish are often accompanied by small fish which hide amongst their tentacles for protection.
Sponges Often colourful and common reef animals. Around 30 per cent of Australia's sponge species are found in the Great Barrier Reef.

Still more species make the Great Barrier Reef home and these include:

  • Bryzoans: around 950 species of tiny animals that form coral-like colonies and are often confused with corals
  • Worms: about 500 species have been recorded along the Great Barrier Reef
  • Marine insects and spiders: likely to be greater than five species of marine spider and more than 20 species of marine insects
  • Plankton: a major food source for a number of species
  • Ascidians/Tunicates: sometimes called sea squirts, this group of around 720 species provide another splash of colour to the Great Barrier Reef.