Those of us who have spent many happy hours snorkeling in coral reefs tend to look at the big fish that we see in the reef. Groupers, sharks, rays, and parrotfish attract our attention. We can easily miss what makes the reef ecosystem work so that the larger fish can live there. Scientists are learning about cryptobenthic fish in the coral reefs.
Hanging around the reefs are tiny fish that are less than five centimeters long and easily escape our attention. They are known as cryptobenthic fish, and they exist in various species, some of which are known as blennies and gobies. Large numbers of them live in the rocks and crevices, and many of them are nocturnal.
Science News (June 22, 2019) reported on a recent study by scientists from Simon Fraser University in Canada. The study shows that these small fish provide a base to the food chain and allow the larger fish to survive. They don’t venture far from the corals that are attached to the floor of the reef. The cryptobenthic species include 17 families of fish that scientists have identified so far. Researchers in the past have overlooked most of them. Deron Burkepile, an ecologist at the University of California at Santa Barbara, says: “Their role is extremely important. We have definitely overlooked these little cryptobenthic species.”
As we look for the design features that God has built into every ecosystem on Earth, we find complexity and sophistication, allowing the system to function. New studies of the tiny cryptobenthic fish in coral reefs will tell us a great deal about the complexity of the reefs and what makes them work.
— John N. Clayton © 2019