A Coral Reef

The Legos of the Sea

Coral reefs are made of millions and millions of tiny little animals called “polyps.” These little animals don’t move, but stay hugged close together to form a coral reef, just like blocks in a lego set!

This, but with coral.

Every polyp has a ring of tentacles that make a bowl around a mouth-like opening in the middle. The tentacles act like arms with big stingers at the end. These stingers can be used for to capture food or defend the coral from attackers.

Did you know?

Coral are related to jellyfish and sea anemones!

Polyps are soft and squishy on the inside, but have a hard out skeleton made out of calcium, just like a snails shell. Each new generation of polyps forms on top of the old generations hard calcium layers.

The “Basal Plate” is made up of old polyps

Where can you find coral?

You won’t find coral by the north and south poles — the water there is much too cold. Instead, corals live in warm, tropical waters the whole world round. Since coral live together with several other organisms like algae, they stay close to the surface where the sun can help the algae grow.

Did you know?

Coral Polyps have barbed, poisonous tentacles that they can use to grab tiny fish and zooplankton? These barbs usually only come out at night.

What are Reefs?

After a while, the polyps begin to connect to each other, creating a colony made up of thousands of tiny polyps. These colonies start to grow very slowly, and over hundreds and even thousands of years, they start to join other colonies. When enough colonies join and grow together, they form a reef. Some of the coral reefs you can visit today began growing over 50 million years ago!

The Great Barrier Reef from space!

The Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef on the planet. Located just off the northeast coast of australia, over 2,900 smaller reefs have joined together to form it, and the whole reef stretches over 2,600 kilometers.

Did you Know?

Coral reefs can be a source of medicine? Some painkillers and other medicines are only found in reefs.

The Rainforest of the Ocean

You’ll find all sorts of creatures in coral reefs

Coral reefs are filled with life! Its a huge family of living creatures, consisting of plants, fish, and all sorts of sea life. You can find shrimp, starfish, sea turtles, jellyfish, and even sea worms in coral. In fact, coral reefs — just like rainforests — are one of the most biologically diverse ecostystems on the whole planet!

Did you know?

Even though coral covers less than one percent of the sea floor, it still supports around 25% of all marine creatures?

Coral reefs do a lot to protect wildlife. They provide a safe place for fish to lay their eggs, and help to sift through and clean the water — like a giant filter! They even help to protect wildlife on the land. If there are any big waves that might damage the shoreline, coral helps to draw some of the water away and reduce the threat.

Threats to Coral

Coral are endangered! Scientists think that human interference, like pollution, global warming, and other things, could kill 30 percent of the existing reefs in the next 30 years.

Coral polyps are actually translucent animals. Reefs get their wild hues from the billions of colorful zooxanthellae (ZOH-oh-ZAN-thell-ee) algae they host. When stressed by such things as temperature change or pollution, corals will evict their boarders, causing coral bleaching that can kill the colony if the stress is not mitigated.

  1. Fertilizer used on farms or home gardens washes into the oceans. The fertilizer creates conditions that make algae increase. The extra algae cover the coral and it dies.
  2. As CO2 emissions increase, more CO2 is absorbed into the oceans. This makes the water more acidic which makes it harder for coral to make their shells.
  3. Increased greenhouse gas emissions are making the water warmer. Coral can’t live in water that is too much warmer or colder than 26–27 degrees Celsius.
  4. Chemicals from sunscreen, pollution from sewage, and herbicides and pesticides used in farms or home gardens can all wash into oceans and poison coral.
  5. Dangerous fishing methods, like cyanide or blast fishing, harm and kill coral. BOTTOM FISHING.

Ways that people are helping to save the reefs

How can YOU help the coral?

Reef Balls are the world’s leading designed artificial reef modules. They are simply the safest and most effective way to create sustainable marine reef habitat. With over 10 different sizes and 20+ styles, they have been tailored to meet nearly any artificial reef project’s goals and they will achieve this in a safe, long term, environmental way. Designing an artificial reef yourself….or relying on unproven techniques will waste your time and money and failed designs couldharm the same marine life you are trying to enhance. Reef Balls are easily made from an ingenious, easy to use, portable fiberglass mold system that can be supplied anywhere in the world. We’ve even got possible matching grants to help you get started. The more you learn about Reef Balls, the more you will find that the best solution for your project is custom designed artificial reefs that take into account your specific project goals.

When the goal is to rehabilitate reefs, water quality and nearby interconnected habitats are often critical to successful projects. Mangroves are one of the habitats found in tropical seas that can both improve water quality and provide interconnected living spaces for marine reef species. However, for many marine species, the mangrove roots must be surrounded by water at least during some tides to provide shelter. Planting mangroves at the littoral zone is often very difficult because waves and ocean debris can damage young mangrove plants. The Reef Ball Foundation developed a system …using small artificial reefs as “planters” that allow for carefree planting of red mangrove propagules. Note: traditional planting techniques work fine if you are not planting where waves and tides will impact your plants. Mangrove Solutions division only assists in planting mangroves in environments where mangrove roots are partially or fully submerged in the water.

1. Eat sustainably caught seafood.

You will protect the health of the fish populations and protect coral reefs. Use the Ocean Wise Guide before you shop with your family.

2. Grow/buy organic!

You will protect coral reefs and limit dead zones. This farming/gardening method doesn’t use chemicals or dangerous fertilizers. Plant an organic garden. Buy and eat organic food. Check for organic certification labels and the PLU number that starts with “9.”

3. Make less waste.

You will decrease marine litter and protect coral reefs. Buy items with less packaging. Stop using disposable containers. Buy milk in recyclable cartons, not in plastic bags. Pack litter-free lunches. Use cloth bags or metal containers.

4. Stop using plastic.

You will decrease marine litter. Replace the plastic things in your life with other materials like glass, wood, or metal. Use biodegradable plastics made from plants (corn). Recycle ALL plastic. Properly sort all garbage and recycling. Have plastic-free picnics!

5. Reduce your carbon footprint.

You will limit dead zones and protect coral reefs. There are many ways to do this!

6. Join in the Great Canadian Shoreline cleanup.

You will decrease marine litter.

7. Buy tropical fish carefully.

You will protect coral reefs. Ask your pet store where they buy their fish from. Only buy tropical fish caught with small nets.

8. Use organic sunscreen or one with safe ingredients.

You will protect coral reefs. It’s better for your body AND the ocean!

9. Support marine national parks.

You will protect the health of the fish populations.

10. Talk to you friends and family about what you’ve learned about oceans.

You will help others to care about the oceans!

Marine Protected Areas, or MPAs, have become important in protecting and managing coral reefs and their inhabitants. In addition, marine parks, such as the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, have been established expressly to protect reefs.

Efforts are also underway to restore damaged reefs through coral farming — growing polyps in nurseries and then planting them on an existing reef. Scientists working through the Nature Conservancy, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to conserving “the lands and waters on which all life depends,” have developed coral farms off the coast of Florida and among the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Weird Relatives!

Did you know that coral is actually related to sea anemones and jellyfish?



There is a council that sets regulation for fishing off the mid-Atlantic coast (Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council)

They are reconsidering protections for deep sea corals

These are very fragile ecosystems

They need to be protected from squid fishing

The canyons in question run from New York to Virginia

The coral live hundreds of yards below the ocean surface and support diverse communities of life

The areas attract lots of marine animals, including squid

Researchers have recently been able to learn more about the corals using submersibles and remotely operated vehicles to explore and find new information, images and video

The corals grow very slowly, and bottom-fishing for squid and fish could knock them over

These communities would not be able to recover for many years

These canyons are refuges for organisms that used to be more widespread

The amendments would cover depth, type of fishing and boundaries, and protection of the canyons and a set of restrictions for a broader zone

“If both of these protection zones are approved and go into effect, it would be the larges prootected area on the Atlantic seaboard.” -Brad Sewell, senior lawyer with the Natural Resources Defence Council’s oceans program

Squid fishermen say the restrictions would damage an industry that has been responsible and is sustainable

they say that they support protecting the corals, but they think that the amendments are not based on sound evidence. He is asking for further studies

However, many are worried about more waiting periods

They say that the public clearly wants the corals to be protected.

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