Friday, August 29, 2008
Coral reefs are home to millions of fish and some of the most abundant and beautiful life on our planet. Coral reefs also provide a barrier to protect land from erosion and they can even form entire islands. Much of the sand found on many tropical beaches is actually coral, ground up and refined.
Coral may look like brightly colored rocks but they are actually living creatures that secrete a hard exoskeleton where they live. Colonies of thousands of tiny creatures cling together to build a coral head. These coral heads build on each other to make an entire coral reef where a myriad of life can thrive.
Coral are actually related to jellyfish and sea anemones. They are very delicate and can only live in certain conditions. They need clear, shallow water to allow plenty of sunlight to reach them. They also need very warm temperatures to thrive. This is why most coral reefs are only found in the tropics. The reason they need so much sunlight is because they actually have algae living in their cells. The coral provides the algae with shelter and safety, and the algae provides coral with energy. Coral also feeds on floating animal materials that it snags in its outstretched tentacles.