Coral Reefs 3


Coral reefs are one of the oldest types of living systems on earth, and certainly one of the most spectacular. They are massive underwater structures formed by the limestone skeletons of tiny invertebrate animals. Reefs house a greater diversity of body forms, chemistry, and animal phyla (thirty-two compared to the eight that inhabit the most biodiverse ecosystems on land). Phyla comprise the second largest category of living things, after kingdoms.
Coral animals begin life as free-floating larvae, but settle on the sea floor in sedentary colonies. The term "coral" applies both to these animals and to their skeletons, particularly the skeletons of stone-like corals.
Many different ...

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is the living portion of the coral. A polyp is a hollow, cylindrical structure attached at one end to a surface, the other end is a mouth surrounded by tentacles which gather food and can sting prey to paralyse it. Polyps live in colonies, which grow from 1 to 7 inches, depending on the species. Coral polyps are classified as animals. Microscopic algae live within the animal tissues in a symbiotic relationship. The algae turn sunlight into carbon and sugars, which are then available to the polyp. In turn the polyp filters particles out of the water and excretes waste (nitrogen and phosphorus) that becomes available to the symbiotic algae. It's this very tight nutrient recycling within the coral itself that allows these corals to live in very low-nutrient waters.
There are three kinds of reefs: atolls, barrier reefs, and fringing reefs. Atolls are formed out in the middle of the ocean by volcanic subsidence, while fringing and barrier reefs form near continents. Florida contains ...

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coral reef is clear because there are very few nutrients, so plankton that would cloud the water are few. In general corals grow slowly, but they are extremely efficient at living and reproducing in these conditions
Reefs matter in many ways:
Links to other coastal ecosystems: such as mangroves and sea grasses.
Sources of medicine: Because corals and most other reef-dwelling species move either very little or not at all, they rely on biochemical warfare for both offence and defence. They have developed strong and very diverse chemical compounds, and a number are proving to have significant anticancer, antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties. For example, ...

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PAPER DETAILS
Added: 2/24/2007 12:39:24 PM
Category: Science & Nature
Type: Free Paper
Words: 3393
Pages: 13

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