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Marine Species


The blacktip reef shark (Carcharhinus melanopterus) is a species of requiem shark, in the family Carcharhinidae, easily identified by the prominent black tips on its fins (especially on the first dorsal fin and its caudal fin). Among the most abundant sharks inhabiting the tropical coral reefs of the Indian and Pacific Oceans, this species prefers shallow, inshore waters. Its exposed first dorsal fin is a common sight in the region. The blacktip reef shark is usually found over reef ledges and sandy flats, though it has also been known to enter brackish and freshwater environments. It typically attains a length of 1.6 m (5.2 ft).


Stingrays are common in coastal tropical and subtropical marine waters throughout the world. Some species, such as Dasyatis thetidis, are found in warmer temperate oceans, and others, such as Plesiobatis daviesi, are found in the deep ocean. The river stingrays, and a number of whiptail stingrays (such as the Niger stingray), are restricted to fresh water. Most myliobatoids are demersal (inhabiting the next-to-lowest zone in the water column), but some, such as the pelagic stingray and the eagle rays, are pelagic. There are about 220 known stingray species organized into ten families and 29 genera.


This sea turtle’s dorsoventrally flattened body is covered by a large, teardrop-shaped carapace; it has a pair of large, paddle-like flippers. It is usually lightly colored, although in the eastern Pacific populations parts of the carapace can be almost black. Unlike other members of its family, such as the hawksbill sea turtle, C. mydas is mostly herbivorous. The adults usually inhabit shallow lagoons, feeding mostly on various species of seagrasses. The turtles bite off the tips of the blades of seagrass, which keeps the grass healthy.


The butterflyfish are a group of conspicuous tropical marine fish of the family Chaetodontidae; the bannerfish and coralfish are also included in this group. The approximately 129 species in 12 genera are found mostly on the reefs of the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans. A number of species pairs occur in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, members of the huge genus Chaetodon. Butterflyfish look like smaller versions of angelfish (Pomacanthidae), but unlike these, lack preopercle spines at the gill covers.


Clownfish or anemonefish are fishes from the subfamily Amphiprioninae in the family Pomacentridae. Thirty species are recognized: one in the genus Premnas, while the remaining are in the genus Amphiprion. In the wild, they all form symbiotic mutualisms with sea anemones. Depending on species, anemonefish are overall yellow, orange, or a reddish or blackish color, and many show white bars or patches. The largest can reach a length of 17 cm (6+1⁄2 in), while the smallest barely achieve 7–8 cm (2+3⁄4–3+1⁄4 in).


Goatfish are often seen on sandy bottoms, using their barbels to probe the sand or holes in the reef for food. Goatfish are an important fish in many parts of the world and are therefore more common in protected areas. In the Caribbean, the yellow goatfish is the most common species. It is easy to see in many locations, especially on sandy bottoms. In the Indo-Pacific, the yellowfin goatfish and the yellowstripe goatfish are frequently seen in large schools, including in shallow lagoons.


Parrotfishes are a group of about 90 fish species regarded as a family (Scaridae), or a subfamily (Scarinae) of the wrasses. With about 95 species, this group’s largest species richness is in the Indo-Pacific. They are found in coral reefs, rocky coasts, and seagrass beds, and can play a significant role in bioerosion. Parrotfish are named for their dentition, which is distinct from other fish. Most tropical species form large schools when feeding and these are often grouped by size.


Puffer fish are known for their ability to rapidly fill their bellies with water or air, expanding like a balloon to two or three times their normal size. This increase in size to an awkward shape, along with tough, sometimes prickly skin, makes them an unattractive option for potential predators. As puffers develop into adulthood, their front teeth fuse together and jut forward, forming a tough, beak-like structure. They use this to crack open the crustaceans and shellfish that form part of their diet.


Lionfish have distinctive brown or maroon, and white stripes or bands covering the head and body. They have fleshy tentacles above their eyes and below the mouth, fan-like pectoral fins, and long, separated dorsal spines. An adult lionfish can grow as large as 18 inches, while juveniles may be as small as 1 inch or less. Lionfish have cycloid scales (fish scales that are oval or elliptical in shape with a smooth edge). Lionfish are native to the warm, tropical waters of the South Pacific and Indian Oceans (i.e., the Indo-Pacific region), including the Red Sea.


The coastal environments of Moorea offer an unparalleled opportunity for studies of coral reef ecosystems. An offshore barrier reef forms a system of shallow (mean depth ~ 5-7 m), narrow (~ 0.8-1.5 km wide) lagoons around the 60 km perimeter of Moorea. All major coral reef types (e.g., fringing reef, lagoon patch reefs, back reef, barrier reef and fore reef) are present and accessible by small boat. Prior to 2008, the reefs were in excellent condition and had been subjected to relatively few natural disturbances during the last several decades.

Humpback Whale

The Humpback Whale is a baleen whale reaching up to 18 meters in length and weighing up to 40 tonnes. The population of Humpback Whales that visits Moorea and Tahiti in French Polynesia migrate over 6,000 km each year from Antarctica. They come here to mate and give birth to a single calf, that is 4 meters and 500kg when born. Here in the warm sheltered waters of Moorea mother Humpbacks nurse their calf and prepare for the migration back to Antarctica.


The lemon shark (Negaprion brevirostris) is a species of shark from the family Carcharhinidae. Lemon sharks can grow to 3.4 metres (11 ft) in length. They are often found in shallow subtropical waters and are known to inhabit and return to specific nursery sites for breeding. Often feeding at night, these sharks use electroreceptors to find their main source of prey: fish. Lemon sharks enjoy the many benefits of group living such as enhanced communication, courtship, predatory behavior, and protection.


The longhorn cowfish (Lactoria cornuta), also called the horned boxfish, is a species of boxfish from the family Ostraciidae, recognizable by its long horns that protrude from the front of its head, rather like those of a cow or bull. They are a resident of the Indo-Pacific region and can grow up to 50 cm (20 in) long. Adults are reef fish, often solitary and territorial, and live around sand or rubble bottom up to a depth of 50 m (160 ft). They are omnivorous.


The common octopus is a global species, which ranges from the eastern Atlantic, extends from the Mediterranean Sea and the southern coast of England, to the southern coast of South Africa. The common octopus hunts at dusk. Crabs, crayfish, and bivalve molluscs (two-shelled, such as cockles) are preferred, although the octopus eats almost anything it can catch. It is able to change colour to blend in with its surroundings, and is able to jump upon any unwary prey that strays across its path.


The playful spinner dolphin makes itself known with a splash. Skilled acrobats, the small dolphins regularly leap out of the water and perform complicated aerial maneuvers. They can spin multiple times in one leap, which can be nearly 10 feet high.The leaping and spinning likely serve several purposes, including the removal of irksome remoras, fish that latch on to eat parasites. Biologists also think the dolphins use their moves to communicate, each one signaling something different: “Let’s go” or “Danger!” or “I find you attractive.”


The spotted or white-spotted boxfish (Ostracion meleagris), is a species of boxfish found in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is found on reefs at depths of from 1 to 30 metres (3.3 to 98.4 ft). This species grows to a length of 25 centimetres (9.8 in) TL. Males and females differ in colour: males are blackish on the back with white spots, and have bluish sides with bright yellowish bands and spots. Females and juveniles are dark brown to blackish with white spots. As with other species of boxfish, the spotted boxfish’s bony carapace gives it a distinctly angular appearance.


Moray eels, or Muraenida, are a family of eels whose members are found worldwide. There are approximately 200 species in 15 genera which are almost exclusively marine, but several species are regularly seen in brackish water, and a few are found in fresh water. The English name, from the early 17th century, derives from the Portuguese moréia, which itself derives from the Latin mūrēna, in turn from the Greek muraina; these are the Latin and Greek names of the Mediterranean moray.


The pennant coralfish (Heniochus acuminatus), also known as the longfin bannerfish, reef bannerfish or coachman, is a species of fish of the family Chaetodontidae, native to the Indo-Pacific area. Its body is compressed laterally, the first rays of its dorsal fin stretch in a long white filament. The background color of its body is white with two large black diagonal bands. The reef bannerfish likes relatively deep waters from protected lagoon, channels or outer reef slopes from 15 to 75 meters deep.