Ecology And Environment

Different Coral Species that Make up Coral Reefs

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"Different Coral Species that Make up Coral Reefs"
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Coral reefs are found in tropical oceans near the equator and are seen as vastly important marvels of the ecological world. Coral reefs are estimated to cover 300,000 square kilometres, with the largest contingency of reefs found in the Indo-Pacific region, accounting for more than 90% of the worlds coral ecosystems. Many people however, mistake corals and anemones as plants, when they are actually animals. They are from a division of a simple group of animals recognized as cnidaria with characteristics similar to jellyfish, such as symmetrical bodies, stinging tentacles and a central mouth. A reef is a colony composed of hundreds of coral and anemones grouped together forming a mass of varying species.

A coral reef also acts as an ecosystem, playing habitat to many fish species as well as many reptilians such as sea turtles and sea snakes. Due to this many coral and anemone species are well known for establishing a symbiotic relationship with members of different fish families. The anemone provides protection for the clownfish, and the clownfish in turn provides food for the anemone as an example. Coral reefs are made up of many beautiful coral species and have been given names based primarily on what they look like. Coral species can be separated into hard and soft corals, hard corals having stony, skeletal structures.

A soft species, Pineapple coral or, Montastrea cavernosa, has a honeycomb pattern and seen as a whole colony looks like a large dome structure. Each polyp is usually green or brown but sometimes found to be red or orange. A very interesting soft coral species is the Bubble coral or, Plerogyra sinuosa. The coral expands bubble like polyps in the day for collecting light, while extending its tentacles to feed at night. Two other soft coral species are the Sea whip or, Muricea muricata, and the Sea Fan or, Goregonian flabellum. The Sea whip takes the shape of a cluster of long finger like branches. These branches have small polyps which filter out nutrients from the water. The Sea whip and Sea Fan are very closely related, with the main difference being the more flat shape of the Sea Fan as well as the purple or red colour instead of the yellow colour of the Sea whip. The Red Cauliflower coral or, Dendronephthya rubeola, is another soft coral and regarded as the most beautiful due to its translucent structure and red and orange flowery polyps. A small soft coral, the Sea Mat or, Zoanthus pulchellus, grows in extremely large colonies, normally covering dead coral skeletons.

A hard coral species like, Star coral or, Galaxea fasciclaris, contains a stone like calcium skeleton. Small, white star shaped polyps flow out from the central heart of the structure, almost resembling a miniature galaxy on the sea floor. Cup coral or, Turbinaria reniformis, is another hard coral species. Its hard skeleton is covered with bumpy growths with delicate petal and flower shaped polyps. The colour of these polyps can vary from yellow to green as well as purple and grey. Staghorn coral or, Oxycirrhites typus, unsurprisingly resemble the horns of a stag deer. The species is a hard coral that has branching structures erecting out of it. Usually golden brown, the staghorn coral can also be found in colours ranging from pink to blue, orange, yellow, and green. A striking hard coral species is the Sun coral or, Tubastrea aurea, with a bright orange structure covered in yellow polyps. This species normally makes homes of dark caves and crevices. Another hard coral is the Brain coral species. There are several varieties of Brain coral or, Diploria strigosa, found throughout the world. The large dome shaped formation brings a sci-fi sense to the reef with its brain like ridges that cover the surface. With neon green glows flashing from each polyp, Torch coral, also known as Candycane coral or, Caulastrea furcata, is another peculiar, hard coral species found on ocean reefs. It extends its tentacles only at night to feed, with brown and yellow stripes along its body and a green illuminate light. The hard coral species, the Clubbed finger coral or, Porites porites, has long tentacles that grow in bundles. A hard coral, the Flowerpot coral or, Goniopora lobata, is another very beautiful species with hundreds of flower like tentacles forming on top of a dome structured base. The tentacles are normally green in colour and sway in the currents.

These coral species are the most common of corals found. There are hundreds of different species which make up the reef ecosystems around the world each with its own unique look and ways for survival. Coral reefs are becoming more and more under threat from extinction due to many influences, such as humans. Unless drastic measures are taken to swing the negative impacts of humans on these beautiful animals, they could all soon vanish.

More about this author: Sean Badrick

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