Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef: July 1996

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The years since 1996 have been hard on the Great Barrier Reef. Evidence for heat damage to the reef is here.

The lizard (Gould's goanna?) that gives the island its name. There are about a dozen species of lizards on the island: this one was about a meter long. They had all the tourist sites staked out and were like ants at a picnic. The other species that had tourist beaches as part of their territory were silver gulls.

Lizard Island's location on the Great Barrier Reef is close to the northern part of the reef. It has a granite core, a lagoon and fringing reef, in contrast to the coral cay and reef flat of Heron Island, near the southern end of the barrier reef.

Aerial view of the island (ABOVE 1, from the resort web site and ABOVE 2 from the research station) and map (BELOW) from the resort web site. The fringing reef shows as light turquoise at the outer edge of the island. The Blue Lagoon has several species of Tridacna, some of them the giant clam species T. gigas. The coral-burrowing T. crocea was also common.

Tridacna crocea (2) burrowed into a shallow water coral head (bommie) and visible by their blue mantles. The mantles have zooxanthellae (symbiotic algae) that perform photosynthesis and help with the nutrition of the clams. Well, the three clownfish above the anemone and clams are Amphiprion percula, the Percula Clownfish by their geography (northern Queensland): because of the banding they are distunguished from A. ocellaris (False Percula Clownfish). I refuse to become involved in their taxonomy. The finger-like projections to the right are soft corals.

Compare the reef photos I took of staghorn and shelf corals at Lizard Island BELOW from July 18-20, 1996 with the ones from the AIMS study ABOVE. An animation of the bleaching event from the 1998 El Niño is available from NOAA.


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