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Fish and Marine Life Illustrations

Coral Reef Illustration

coral reef

Coral reef, watercolor pencils, watercolor and gouache

About the illustration:
Commissioned by: Operand for Smithsonian Institute. Operand develops and implements interactive multimedia computer systems. This illustration is part of an interactive exhibit which will educate people about coral reefs and the impact of human actions on the reefs. Other reef animals were illustrated separately and placed into this image as the interactive elements (see the thumbnails below of the starfish (cushion sea star), lobster, conch and grouper).

About coral reefs and the animals featured in this coral reef illustration, in particular:

Coral reefs are formed by the decaying bodies of corals. Corals are marine animals in the class "Anthozoa". The coral that builds reefs are those that secrete calcium carbonate, which forms a hard skeleton. Coral grows by asexual reproduction of the polyps.

Coral reefs are formed in shallow (usually less than 200 feet in depth) tropical waters where there are few nutrients. In a nutrient-rich environment, algae thrives, which would cause the demise of the coral. Corals which form coral reefs obtain most of their nutrients from zooxanthellae. Zooxanthellae are a unicellular algae, hence these coral reef forming corals require sunlight and clear water.

coral reef

The features numbered below are described in the following links:

1. Brain Coral

2. Boulder Star Coral

3. Elkhorn Coral

4. Azure Vase Sponge

5. Black Sea Urchin

6. Caribbean Reef Shark

7. Spotted Eagle Ray

8. Elkhorn Coral, Boulder Star Coral, and Coral Sea Whip

Also see the preliminary drawing and other illustrations for this project. These specific animals were placed into the coral reef illustration above as interactive elements to educate people about the effects of human interaction on the coral reef:

coral reef drawing
conch shell

More about coral reefs:

Wikipedia: Coral

Photos of stingrays:


Photos of sea urchins:

Sea Urchin

Keywords related to art on this page: tropical, caribbean, coral reef, picture, image, reefs, corals, fish artist, illustrator, artwork, art, ichthyology illustrations, ichthyological, marine artist, pictures, images, life, tropics, habitat, saltwater, salt water, underwater, under water, atlantic, ocean, coast, coastal


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