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  Habitats - The Great Barrier Reef    

Kelp Forests

4. Species Composition - Consumers

Animals that live in the kelp forest range from large active species that move along the seafloor or in between the individual kelp plants to a plethora of immobile animals that live attached to the reef surface or the plants themselves. Animals can be divided into different groups based on how they feed. In the kelp forest the following species fall into these groups.

Herbivores: these animals feed directly on the kelps themselves or graze on the algae that grow in, on or under the kelp. Typical herbivores include marine snails such as the commercially important Abalone (Haliotus sp.), Warrener (Turbo undulatus), and pheasant shells (Phasianella australis).


These snails graze on smaller algae growing under the kelp or on broken pieces of kelp that they catch drifting past. Other herbivores include various urchins that are mainly active at night including ) and short spined urchins (Holopneustes spp.). Urchins play an important role in maintaining the balance of plants on the reef - when lacking predators such as large fish or mammals urchins can easily strip kelp forest away, changing the habitat dramatically, as has occurred in a number of places in NSW and also in California.

Carnivores in the kelp forest carnivore species can hide in ambush in the leaves or cruise along beneath the seaweeds looking for food.

Most fish in the kelp forest are carnivores including Seahorses and Seadragons, Wrasse, Scaly fin, Leatherjackets, Old wives, and a number of small rays and sharks such as Port Jackson Sharks (Heterodontus portusjacksoni), Catsharks (Parascyllium spp.), and Wobbegongs (Orectolobus spp.).

There are also a large number of invertebrates that are active carnivores including a number of carnivorous snails such as the Tulip shell (Pleuroploca australasia), whelks such as the Cartrut shell (Dicathais orbita),

Big-bellied Seahorse
(Hippocampus abdominalis)

Senator wrasse
(Pictilabrus laticlavius)

Other invertebrates include cone shells (Conus anemone) and the large Triton (Charonia lampas). Other molluscs found in kelp forest include the Giant cuttlefish (Sepia apamus) and a number of Octopus species.

Many seastars are also carnivores feeding on animals such as bivalves or encrusting filter feeders. Beautiful seastars such as the Biscuit stars (Tosia spp.) feed on sponges and ascidians, while large 11-armed seastars (Coscinasterias muricata) seek out molluscs such as warreners.

Next -  Habitat Issues / Threats  

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Ecology - Energy Flow
Filter feeders& scavengers
Habitat Issues / Threats
What can we do to protect our kelp forests?
Macrocystis pyrifera seaweed culture
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