The Atlantic

The Tiny Fish That Break a Fundamental Rule of Vertebrate Life

By living fast and getting eaten in extreme numbers, these overlooked critters fuel the food webs that allow vast communities to flourish in coral reefs.
Source: Tane Sinclair-Taylor

Although coral reefs are home to bustling communities of gaudy marine life, half the fishes that live there are hardly ever seen. Aptly known as cryptobenthics—literally “hidden bottom-dwellers”—these species are mostly shorter than two inches and usually hidden in crevices. If you snorkel past, they’ll scurry away. But Simon Brandl of Simon Fraser University has made a career of studying them. And he and his team have now shown that cryptobenthics are a crucial component of healthy reefs because they, more so than other fish, are extremely good at dying.

Pretty much every predator on the reef eats cryptobenthics, and a full 70 percent of these tiny morsels are devoured . But since they

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