Imagine that you are snorkeling in the middle of an ocean. You look down and see a wonderful underwater land of colors and fish of all shapes and sizes. You realize it is the home of millions of different fish. This is the huge and colorful land of coral. Here are some facts about coral that are really interesting. The huge coral is made up of billions of little stony cups, most no bigger than a thumbnail. Coral only grows a few inches each year. Most coral reefs started developing over 10,000 years ago. One third of all fish species can be found on coral reefs. Coral can be found in warm shallow seas or oceans. No two reefs are exactly alike.
All About Polyps
Coral reefs are living structures built up over thousands of years by tiny animals called polyps. Coral polyps are animals. The polyps body is no more than a sack with a mouth. Around the mouth is a ring of tentacles. Coral polyps usually live together in groups. Each polyp makes a stony skeleton around its body. The skeletons of all the polyps in a group are joined together. When the polyps die, their delicate bodies decay. Their hard skeletons remain behind. New polyps grow on the top of the ones that died. Gradually, over long periods of time, reefs of coral skeletons are built up in the ocean, with living coral on the surface.
The Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef is one of the earth’s natural wonders. The Great Barrier Reef stretches for more than 1,300 miles along the Northern Eastern coast of Australia. The Great Barrier Reef has more than 2,600 kinds of coral altogether. It is the largest group of coral in the world. All together, it covers an area about half the size of Texas.
Protecting the Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef does a lot of things for a lot of people, not just fish. It gives the fishermen plenty of fish. It gives the tourists something to look at. It gives the scientists something to study. But many people kill parts of it. The Great Barrier Reef is in danger of extinction. 27 percent of the world’s reefs have already been lost. This happens by pollution and throwing anchors on The Great Barrier Reef. We can protect our coral reefs by not dropping our anchors on the reefs, because the reefs are very delicate. Do not touch coral because it is very delicate. Avoid stirring up the sea bottom. It will rip up the coral. Don’t leave trash on the beach. When buying coral or reef species, ask the store to confirm that they have been collected responsibly so you know they did not harm the coral reef. Then tell someone so they won’t do it again.
Sea Life that rely on the Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef supports about 1,500 different species of fish. Worldwide, there are more than four thousand kinds of reef fish. Some of the fish that live in The Great Barrier Reef are crabs, giant clams, sea turtles, eels, sea sponges, sea squirts and colorful marine worms. You would probably also see a big blue starfish, spotted sea cucumbers, sea urchins, snails with beautiful shells, rays, shrimp, and sharks. Those are only some of the species out of the thousand, and still we find more species every year. If we keep harming the Barrier Reef most fish would have no shelter or no food. The fish are in danger and will eventuality die if we don’t start protecting the reef.
Lambert, David. The King Fish Young People’s Book of Oceans. New York: Scholastic, 1998.
Johnson, Rebecca. The Great Barrier Reef. Minneapolis: Lerner Publications Company, 1991.
Pringle, Laurence. Coral Reefs. New York: Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, 1995.