Biscayne National Park

Biscayne National Park

Flora & Fauna

There are four "worlds" at Biscayne National Park: the mangrove shoreline, the waters of the bay, the keys and the coral reefs. Since 95% of Biscayne National Park is water, the majority of animals that live there are associated with ocean or shoreline habitats.

The mangrove shoreline acts as a nursery for all types of land and marine animals. The mangrove swamps also keep the waters of Biscayne Bay clear and sparkling by trapping eroding soil and pollutants from inland sources.

The aquamarine (or turquoise is more accurate) waters of the bay teem with sea stars, sponges, soft corals, hundreds of types of fish and other marine life. A very special resident of Biscayne Bay is the endangered manatee, or sea cow.

The keys (islands), are made of ancient coral rock. Similar to those found in the Ever-glades, the hardwood hammocks of the keys support gumbo-limbo trees, Jamaican dogwood, strangler fig, mahogany and other tropical plants common to the West Indies.

Biscayne's coral reefs are the work of billions of tiny individual coral animals called polyps. Relatives of the sea anemone, these soft-bodied animals live in small cups of calcium carbonate (limestone) that they secrete around themselves as exterior skeletons. Thin layers of skeletons form coral reefs, with only the thin outer layer being alive.

More than 500 varieties of fish, both large and small, call Biscayne National Park home, and most of them live in or near coral reefs. Such congestion partially explains their brilliant colors and distinct patterns. In order to survive, an individual fish must be able to instantly identify potential rivals or mates. Some are even able to change color at night, most likely to hide from predators. The vividly colored fish include the rock beauty, the queen angelfish and the parrotfish, which has sharp front teeth that resemble a parrot's beak.

Also in residence are the gold-flecked moray eel, stingrays, squid and five species of sea turtles.