The Coral Reefs

Despite their appearance as plants, corals that make up reefs are actually built by animals called coral polyps. Each of these looks like they are tiny sea anemone with stinging tentacles. The coral polyps secrete the hard mineral calcium carbonate around their bodies to protect them from fish and other predators. The coral polyps that live in colonies, as most of them do, end up building fantastic structures that grow year by year. As Individual polyps die they are replaced by new ones, which extend the stony structures further.

Satellite image of the Great Barrier Reef

The corals come in many shapes and sizes and each of them are unique individual species. Some of the corals resemble antlers, some fans, and others brains. But all of them have one thing in common, they all have a large surface area facing the sun. This is because the coral polyps themselves contain algae, and algae need sunlight to produce food. At the time of day, the polyps are sustained by the sugars their algae produce. And at night, they extend their tentacles into the water to catch plankton and any other small particles of food that might drift by.

tropical Fish have a service of clearing turtle shells by removing unwanted algae, giving the shells a great shine while feeding themselves.

Corals don’t only create Barrier Reefs but they also create fringing reefs and atolls. Fringing reefs are the most common sets of reefs which grow outwards from coastlines of islands and continents. Atolls are oval shaped which surround shallow lagoons. To form, atolls take 38million years. They start off with underwater volcanoes (seamounts) which spew lava which then solidifies when meeting water.

There are fishes that feed on Corals, too. One of which is the parrotfish which chomp off huge pieces of coral with their tough beaks. They then grind the chunks up using the sets of teeth in their throats. Another is the Emperor Angelfish which are delicate eaters that pick off individual polyps with their small pincer-like mouths.

Fishes that live in coral reefs are absolutely spectacular and seem to come in every colour. From the beautiful Powder Blue Fish and the dazzling yellow of surgeonfish to the vivid reds and oranges of squirrelfish and their relatives. Certainly, the coral world is a truly striking unforgettable world and is no doubt the oceans most beautiful place.

Image of a Fringing Reef.


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