Corals are formed by small animals, the polyps of the phylum Cnidaria.
|Pillar coral, Dendrogyra cylindricus|
The corals are marine, either on continental shelves or round oceanic islands. They live in colonies.
All the polyps in a colony are zooids: they are all clones, genetically identical. Inside the colony they breed by asexual reproduction. They also reproduce sexually. Colonies of the same species release gametes together, over one, two or three nights around a full moon.
Each coral animal is like a small bag. The opening on top is the mouth. Tentacles (little arms) around the mouth carry stinging nematocysts, which paralyse the small animals eaten by the coral polyps.
Coral usually grows in tropical oceans. A few corals grow in cold water, like the oceans around the British Isles and Norway.
Most corals get energy and nutrients from symbiosis with photosynthetic unicellular algae called zooxanthellae. Such corals need sunlight and grow in clear, shallow water, typically at depths less than 60 metres (200 ft).
Many corals (and some other cnidaria) live with zooxanthellae of the genus Symbiodinium, which are dinoflagellates. Usually, each polyp harbours one species of algae. By photosynthesis, these provide energy for the coral, and help calcification.
The algae benefit from a safe place to live and consume the polyp's carbon dioxide and nitrogenous waste. Due to the strain the algae can put on the polyp, the coral often ejects the algae. Mass ejections are known as coral bleaching, because the algae contribute to coral's brown coloration. Ejection increases the polyp's chance of surviving short-term stress—they can regain algae, possibly of a different species, at a later time. If the stressful conditions persist, the polyp eventually dies.
A coral reef is a place where many corals grow. The reef make a good home for many other animals, such as fish, crabs, clams, and sponges.
Each coral animal secretes calcium carbonate around itself. This makes the solid structure of the colony. When the animal dies, new polyps live on top of the older structure. The rock they make is also called coral.
They are called coral skeletons. Each different kind of coral colony builds a different kind of skeleton, so that colonies can be shaped like a brain, a mushroom, a cabbage, or many other things. With all these corals gathered together building skeletons around themselves, large coral formations are made. Together, all the coral formations in one place make up a coral reef.
Coral can also be used as jewellery.
A drawing of one coral polyp
The Great Barrier Reef pictured from space
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 Madl P. and Yip M. (2000). "Field excursion to Milne Bay Province – Papua New Guinea". Archived from the original on 2020-05-11. Retrieved 2006-03-31.
- ↑ Innis, Michelle (9 April 2016). "Climate-Related Death of Coral Around World Alarms Scientists". The New York Times.
- ↑ Other colors are due to host coral pigments, such as green fluorescent proteins (GFPs)
- ↑ W. W. Toller, R. Rowan and N. Knowlton (2001). "Repopulation of Zooxanthellae in the Caribbean corals Montastraea annularis and M. faveolata following experimental and disease-associated bleaching". The Biological Bulletin. Marine Biological Laboratory. 201 (3): 360–373. doi:10.2307/1543614. JSTOR 1543614. PMID 11751248. S2CID 7765487.
- ↑ Amy McDermott (October 18, 2016). "Reef rehab could help threatened corals make a comeback; Solutions for threatened reefs vary by location and damage done". Science News. sciencenews.org. Retrieved 1 November 2016.
- Coral Reefs and Hard Grounds information Archived 2010-02-01 at the Wayback Machine from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Fish and Wildlife Research Institute Archived 2006-10-04 at the Wayback Machine
- Coral Reefs of the Tropics Archived 2011-02-19 at the Wayback Machine: facts, photos and movies from The Nature Conservancy
- Australian Coral Records Research Group Archived 2011-03-28 at the Wayback Machine