The Belize Barrier Reef is home to a large diversity of plants and animals, making it one of the most diverse ecosystems of the world:
70 hard coral species
36 soft coral species
500 species of fish
hundreds of invertebrate species, including sponges
hundreds of bird species
dozens of marine mammal species
It is believed that only about 10 percent of the species have been discovered, and there may be hundreds or even thousands of additional species that still need to be researched.
Many people refer to coral reefs as the “rainforests of the sea” due to their important role as diverse biospheres and their impact on the environment. Although far less than 1% of the world’s oceans contain coral reefs, these “rainforests” are home to a quarter of all marine species, including sponges, fish, shellfish, rays, sharks, and echinoderms. In fact, the Belize Barrier Reef is a significant habitat for threatened species, including sea turtles, manatees, and the American marine crocodile. It is also home to animals like the spotted eagle ray, whale shark, killer whales, dolphins, conches, seahorses, eels, upsidedown jellyfish and octopuses.