‘The Great 8’
Animals of the Great Barrier Reef
The incredible biodiversity of the Great Barrier Reef means visitors have the chance to swim with some truly amazing creatures. These top eight living, breathing icons are featured for their unique attributes and importance to the Reef.
1. Giant Clam
A beautiful sight to behold, the giant clam enjoys the warm waters surrounding the Great Barrier Reef. It's the largest living bivalve mollusc weighing up to 200kg, with an average lifespan of around 100 years.
2. Manta Ray
Unlike the stingray, these gentle giants don’t have a barb. The largely solitary manta ray is known to travel large distances, scouring the ocean for food such as plankton and fish larvae.
3. Maori Wrasse
The largest member of the family Labridae, this wrasse can reach up to six feet long. Its unusual appearance includes thick fleshy lips and a protruding lump above its eyes. It's renowned for its passive and friendly personality.
A huge variety of sharks call the Great Barrier Reef home, ranging from small bottom-dwelling varieties like wobbegongs, to tiger sharks, hammerheads and even the enormous whale shark. If you're diving the Reef, you're most likely to see the the blacktip, whitetip and grey reef shark.
Clownfish form an incredible symbiotic relationship with the sea anemones they live in. Clownfish use their bright colour to lure passing fish into the anemone, which stings and eats the fish and then shares the scraps with the clownfish. These iconic fish are all born male, but can change gender and become female.
The oldest known sea turtle fossil is at least 120 million years old, making sea turtles some of the oldest creatures on the planet. That means they shared the planet with dinosaurs, which became extinct around 65 million years ago. Despite this incredible longevity, only around one in every thousand hatchlings make it to adulthood.
7. Potato Cod
The potato cod is a native Australian fish and belongs to the Grouper family. Groupers are among the largest of all bony fish and boast equally big mouths. The potato cod usually weighs in at less than 100kg but its cousin, the Queensland grouper or giant grouper, is the largest bony fish found on the Great Barrier Reef, known to grow to more than 2m long and weigh up to 400kg.
During Australia’s winter and spring, from June to November, up to 10,000 whales migrate north from Antarctica’s colder waters to the warm shallows of the Great Barrier Reef to breed and give birth. Though many species make this migration, humpback whales and dwarf minke whales are the ones you’re most likely to see on the Reef.