Copepods are abundant on the GBR and form a major component of zooplankton. Most are no longer than a few millimetres, though some parasitic species reach 300 millimetres. Copepods lack a carapace, and most free living species have a single median eye, a much-elongated pair of antennae that is held outwards, a broadened trunk area and slender abdomen. The most common copepods on the GBR are free living forms— the compact harpacticoids and barrel-shaped calanoids and cyclopoids. Harpacticoids are generally benthic, living under rocks, in algae and sediment. Calanoids and cyclopoids are common in the plankton where they may form dense swarms. Free living copepods feed variously on other zooplankton, diatoms, and algae, and are an extremely important food source for larval fish and decapods. Parasitic copepods feed on the blood or tissue of their hosts. Examples include the siphonostomatoids and poecilostomatoids that attach to the skin of sharks and fish, and certain cyclopoids, which have become worm-like as internal invertebrate parasites.
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