Facts about Coral Reefs

Some facts about coral reefs can be really surprising. Coral reefs are composed of many small animals that live underwater. These tiny creatures are known as polyps; they tend to live in large groups and are known to create strong exoskeletons made of calcium carbonate. The function of these skeletons is to protect the fragile bodies of these important creatures. Calcium carbonate is very strong and is responsible for the very solid appearance of the reef. Polyps look a lot like small jellyfish but once they secrete their skeleton they can create very massive structures that are essential for the environment.

Reefs can be grouped into 3 main types.

- First is the Atoll which is like a circular reef creating a small lagoon inside of it.

- Second is the barrier; this reef runs parallel to the shore and is separated from it by deep water areas.

- The third type is the fringing reef; in this type the coral reef grows very close to the shore with some shallow water between it and the shore.

How they are formed?

These reefs which are commonly called the “rainforests of the sea” are very common in tropical and subtropical waters. Their growth tends to be faster in shallow warm waters where plenty of sunlight can reach them with ease. A polyp can grow up to 30cm but it can take quite a while to do so. Reefs can only grow a couple of centimeters each year (less than 3) so it takes a long time to form a reef.

Coral reefs have existed for millions of years. Polyps can live up to a couple of hundred years while their colonies can achieve thousands of years. Some of them have been around for more than 10000 years. As those colonies get together they can form bigger reefs; some of them have been growing for more than 50 million years. Once the polyp dies they leave their exoskeletons behind which explains the size of the massive reefs.

One of them most interesting facts about coral reefs is that they can harbor more than 3000 different species in a single reef, which is one of the main reasons scuba divers love to admire them at the first chance they get. You can find several coral reefs in many places around the world like the red sea. There are other reefs in well visited areas in the Caribbean for example in the waters near Punta Cana. Some of them have grown around shipwrecks making them ideal spots to gaze into an underwater world full of wonders.

Importance of the Reefs

Corals reef are an exceptional part of the oceans' ecosystem; even when they cover a very small area of the total ocean floor (less than 1%) they are theView of a coral reef home of more than 25% of the total marine life. That number is a clear indicator of the reason why they have to be preserved. 

One of the facts about coral reefs is that some of the creatures that inhabit them are many different types of sea stars, crabs, fish with all kinds of vibrant colors, stingrays and even whale sharks. The diversity of marine life is almost limitless; of course any imbalance in the food chain of the reefs could have very serious consequences for the general oceanic population and humans as well.

Another of the facts about coral reefs is their ability to protect the coastline as they can serve as a protective barrier from severe weather. You can be sure that if many reefs weren’t present the waves would erode the shore severely and many structures close to the sea would suffer extensive damage.

Many medicinal compounds can also be found in the reefs. Some powerful toxins like the ones used by stonefish, sea snakes and box jellyfish can be modified to create anti inflammatory agents and other chemicals to relieve pain. Other compounds have also been extracted from sponges due to their properties.

Coral reefs are in danger; a great portion of them (around 25%) are gone so is important to take good care of the existing ones by decreasing contamination and appreciating their beauty.

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