The Web of Life (22-3-12) Reef Police

 Reef Police

Coral reefs are constantly assaulted by algae which wish to steal prime sunlit locations for themselves. To gain control, many of these seaweeds pack toxins that take a toll on coral metabolism.

Left unchecked, seaweed can smother coral and take over a reef; an often-irreversible demise.

Gobies and other herbivorous fish live among the coral, which produces mucus to feed them. When coral is being damaged by seaweed, it lets loose a chemical cry for help. Sensing distress at home, gobies gobble the algae.

For a goby and others, seaweed may be a fine snack, but it does not provide a reliable food source and a place to live like a coral reef. Herbivorous fish are critical in keeping the algae on reefs in check; hence, coral provide for police protection.