Reef Life: A Guide to Tropical Marine Life
Reef Life: A Guide to Tropical Marine Life
Reef Life: A Guide to Tropical Marine Life Reef Life: A Guide to Tropical Marine Life Reef Life: A Guide to Tropical Marine Life Reef Life: A Guide to Tropical Marine Life Reef Life: A Guide to Tropical Marine Life Reef Life: A Guide to Tropical Marine Life Reef Life: A Guide to Tropical Marine Life

* Book Type:

Publisher: Firefly Books

Author Statement: Brandon Cole and Scott Michael
Audience: Trade
Specs: 1000 color photographs, maps, references, index
Pages: 616
Trim Size: 6 1/4" X 7" X 1 3/8"
Language code 1: eng
Publication Date: 20130308
Copyright Year: 2013
Price: Select Below


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Reef Life: A Guide to Tropical Marine Life

A practical, up-to-date, comprehensive guidebook for divers, naturalists and students, featuring more than 1000 color photographs of 800 species of ocean life.

From tide pools to coral reefs and the open ocean beyond lies a world abounding with an assortment of colorful fish and fascinating creatures. The lure of the life that inhabits the ocean's reefs and open water is no secret to scuba enthusiasts and snorkelers who enjoy the opportunity to gaze upon this wonderful world through their dive masks. Reef Life identifies the most-likely encountered underwater life in the tropical marine environment, featuring more than 800 beautiful color photographs that provide the keys to this magnificent world.

A gallery of more than 400 species offers readers an extensive identification guide to the most-likely encountered fishes and features each in detail: name, species, habitat, range and a description particular to the animal covered. With sections on invertebrates and algae, this guide reveals much about the range of animals and plants in the undersea ecosystem. Included is behavioral information on feeding, mimicry, and symbiosis, providing insights into natural survival strategies taking place among animals beneath the ocean surface.

The clear, concise descriptions of the myriad of animals in the tropical oceans are collected in this handy, portable and comprehensive reference for use in the field or at the desk. The surveys of the tropical ocean regions and sea life around the world include:

  • The Caribbean
  • The Hawaiian Islands
  • French Polynesia
  • The Fijian Islands
  • The Philippines and South China Sea
  • Micronesia
  • The Indonesian Archipelago
  • Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands
  • The Great Barrier Reef
  • Western Thailand and Andaman Sea
  • The Maldives and Western Indian Ocean
  • The Red Sea
  • Tropical Eastern Pacific.


Brandon Cole is a biologist, wildlife photographer and photojournalist specializing in the marine environment worldwide. His photography has appeared in hundreds of magazines including GEO, National Geographic, Newsweek, Outside, Scientific American and Smithsonian. He lives in Spokane Valley, Washington.

Scott W. Michael is an internationally recognized writer, underwater photographer, and researcher who specializes in elasmobranchs (i.e., sharks, skates and rays) and coral reef fishes. He is the author of Reef Sharks and Rays of the World (1994). A scientific consultant for National Geographic Explorer and the Discovery Channel, he lives in Lincoln, Nebraska.



This book presents selected work from a "life aquatic" career spanning twenty years. After earning a bachelor's degree in marine biology from the University of California at Santa Barbara and working as an underwater researcher with the US National Park Service and the Australian Institute of Marine Science, I pursued a PhD for a month, then succumbed to the lure of underwater photography. I left the lab and now spend up to six months each year exploring one of the planet's last frontiers -- the world beneath the waves.

Since I had no formal training in the studio or the darkroom, the transition from scientist to artist was a clumsy one. I admit to making far more miserable pictures than memorable ones, breaking more than one camera, and, even after two decades, still being baffled by the complexity of the craft. It's the critters, large and small, that have kept me going through it all.

In recording the oceans' majesty I have traveled the globe, logging millions of air miles and more than 15,000 hours underwater. I count among my favorite scuba-diving locales the coral reefs of Indonesia, the "Enchanted Isles" of the Galapagos, and the current-swept chilly waters off British Columbia. Paradoxically I live in landlocked Spokane, Washington, with my wife, Melissa, an artist and frequent diving companion.

In the ocean I am continually experiencing new manifestations of the marvelous: the contagious thirst for life shown by a group of frolicking wild dolphins; a kelp forest wrapped in silence, yet noisy with color and motion; the mystery that enshrouds the open ocean or a coral reef under the cover of darkness. For me, Aristotle's "all things" include not only 40-ton breaching whales, schooling sharks and hang glider-sized manta rays; they also consist of the weird little fishes, the camouflaged beasties that hide in plain sight, and the spineless invertebrates -- diminutive shrimps and crabs, sea slugs and jellyfish, artfully arranged clusters of sea anemones, sponges and corals. These creatures and their unfathomable beauty are often overlooked, but they are no less deserving of appreciation and photographic preservation than the charismatic megafauna.

I consider myself most fortunate that my day job allows me to work underwater, witness to the reef's denizens as they go about their daily lives. Though the rush of encountering big animals is undeniable, I'm also happy to spend hours observing the smaller creatures, such as attitudinal 5-centimeter (2-inch) blennies -- frantically active fish whose bulging eyes rotate independently -- and the mimic octopus, a most engaging cephalopod -- a chameleon actor that tries to dupe me with one ingenious disguise after another. I'm sure my laughter at its antics can clearly be heard drifting on the current. Also heard, I hope, is my sincere wish that an appreciation and respect for the wildlife and habitat be foremost in the minds of those who visit the great ocean and those who live along its shores. It's all about enjoying nature -- but not at her expense.

--Brandon Cole, July 2012




Chapter 1: Tropical Marine Ecosystems

The Coral Reef

    Conditions for Reef Development
    Coral Reef Types
    Coral Reef Zones
Artificial Reefs
Mangrove Forests

Chapter 2: Coral Reef Communities

Tropical Indo-Pacific Ocean

    Hawaiian Islands
    French Polynesia
    Fiji Islands
    Indonesian Archipelago
    Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands
    Great Barrier Reef
    Western Thailand and Andaman Sea
    Red Sea
Tropical Eastern Pacific Ocean
    Galapagos Archipelago
    Cocos Island
    Revillagigedo Islands
Tropical Western Atlantic Ocean
    Central Caribbean Sea
    Eastern Caribbean Sea
    Southern Caribbean Sea
    Western Caribbean Sea
    Lion Invasion!

Chapter 3: Ray-Finned Fishes

Food Habits

Antipredation Behavior: Staying Off the Menu
    Avoiding Detection
    Deterring Attackers
    Speed and Agility
    Venom and Poison
    Spines, Armor and Teeth
Schooling and Shoaling
    Batesian Mimicry
    Mullerian Mimicry
    Cleaner Mimics
    Mimic Octopuses: Fact or Fiction?
    Social Mimicry
Reef Fish and Invertebrates
Cleaner Fishes
    Cleaner Categories
    What Do Cleaners Eat?
    Cleaner Ecology and Behavior
    Cleaner Crustaceans
Reef-Fish Sex
    Reproductive Strategies
    Parental Care in Reef Fishes
Species Identification

Chapter 4: Elasmobranchs

Sharks and Rays
Species Identification

Chapter 5: Invertebrates

Sea Anemones
Stony Corals
Soft Corals
Sea Jellies
Comb Jellies
Polyclad Flatworms and Acoels
Polychaete Worms
Marine Snails
Sea Slugs
Echinoderms: Sea Stars, Sea Urchins and Sea Cucumbers

Chapter 6: Marine Reptiles

Sea Snakes
Sea Turtles
Marine Iguana
Species Identification

Chapter 7: Marine Mammals

Cetaceans: Whales and Dolphins
Pinnipeds: Seals and Sea Lions
Sirenians: Manatees and Dugongs
Species Identification

Chapter 8: The Open Ocean

Species Identification

Chapter 9: Conservation of Tropical Marine Ecosystems

Land-Based Pollution

    Destructive Fishing Methods
Coral Collection and Mining
Echinoderm Issues
The Big Problems
Some Success Stories
Making a Difference

Photo Credits / Author Bios