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Corales de Icacos

Marine Biodiversity

The Arrecifes La Cordillera Natural Reserve supports a great variety of organisms that inhabit the different marine ecosystems that make up the Reserve, such as coral reefs and seagrass beds.



In the coral reefs of La Cordillera we can find a total of 83 species of fish represented in:

33 families

of which 50% are of commercial importance, such as pomacentrids, triggerfish, groupers, snappers, butterflies, horse mackerel, parrots, wrasses, feathers, barracudas, and surgeons.


The reefs of La Cordillera are very important for their high coral cover and for their extension.


In the area of ​​La Cordillera we can find three types of reef: the rocky reef, the edge reef, and the patch reef.


- The rocky reef is a platform of eolianite or cemented sand covered by corals.

-The edge reef grows adjacent to the shoreline and is divided by a narrow lagoon.

-The patch reef is a coral colony usually enclosed by a sandy bottom.


In the reserve we can see soft corals such as Gorgonia sp., Pseudoterogorgia sp., Plexaura sp . and zoanthids such as Palythoa caribaeorum .


We can also observe extremely important hard corals in the formation of the reef structure such as the complex of corals of the genus Montastraea, Diploria sp., Acropora sp., Colpophyllia sp. and Porites sp ., among others.


We also find crustaceans and mollusks of high commercial importance such as the spiny lobster Panulirus argus and the conch Strombus gigas, respectively.


The reserve supports other invertebrates that serve as keystone species on the reef, as they are responsible for important processes such as herbivory on the reef and for “cleaning” the substrate so that new coral recruits can settle. , develop and grow, such as the black hedgehog Diadema antillarum .


Seagrass meadows, or phanerogams, are advanced vascular plants that have adapted to grow in the marine environment. In general, the seagrass meadows are found in the windward part of the keys, where the waves and the current are attenuated by the barrier of keys and islets.


These seagrass beds are mostly made up of turtle grass (Thalassia testudinum) and manatee grass ( Syringodium filiforme). Both species can grow together. In the deeper parts, Syringodium usually dominates, while Thalassia can grow in water up to a foot or less.


The seagrass beds on the leeward side of the reserve keys are the habitat of the Antillean manatee ( Trichechus manatus ), an endangered species. Even eastern Puerto Rico has been recognized as the area where manatees are most abundant.


Furthermore, in seagrass beds we usually find white and green urchins such as Tripneustes ventricosus and Lytechinus variegatus , respectively. We can also observe the cushion star, Oreaster reticulatus , a common sea star on our coasts, which is responsible for feeding on organic matter and microorganisms in the substrate and browsing (grazing) algae, being another "keystone species" in grasslands marine.


On the other hand, from December to February humpback whales have been sighted moving through the waters of the Reserve.


The Reserve has the best developed reefs and associated systems on the Northeast coast of Puerto Rico and has large areas of turtle grass (Thalassia grasslands). In addition to the submerged marine resources (eg coral reefs, seagrass beds, seagrass beds) these islands also support a high diversity and abundance of coastal birds such as the cervera ( Anous stolidus ), the nun gull ( Sterna anaethetus ) , the dark gull ( Sterna fuscata ), the black loggerhead ( Sula leucogaster ), and the black-headed gull ( Larus atricilla ), as well as the palometa ( Sterna dougalli ), among others that are protected at the state and federal level.

Icacos Corals

School of grunts in the Staghorn Coral Gardens (Acropora cervicornis) from Icacos (Photo by Montañez-Acuña)

Corales de Palominos

Star Coral Polyps (Monstranstrea cavernosa)(Photo by Montañez-Acuña)

Starfish in seagrass meadows (Photo by Otaño)

Healthy seagrass beds - Thalassia and Syringodium (Photo by Montañez- Acuña)

Pilar coral in the patch reef of Cayo Icacos (Photo by Montañez-Acuña)

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