Coral reefs only add to the incredible natural beauty that exists beneath the water.
They are fascinating ecosystems important to all life on earth !
And guess what … coral are not plants, they’re actually animals !
Have a look on this nice video:
Do you know how coral reefs grow ?
It is as simple as that : free-swimming coral larvae go for a ride … they find a nice spot to settle down, attach themselves to a hard surface ; and there begins the process of forming coral reefs.
Then, a coral polyp secrete a skeleton from the underside of its skin. It divides itself in half and making exact genetic copies of itself. As more and more polyps are added, a coral colony develops. Eventually the coral colony becomes mature, begins reproducing, and the cycle of life continues !
How fast does it grow ?
Different species = different rates !
It depends on water temperature, salinity, turbulence, and the availibility of food.
Massive corals are the slowest, between 5 and 25mm per year.
Staghorn corals can add 20 cms to their branches each year.
What’s the best spot for them ?
They grow best in warm waters (21-29°) and need salt water to survive. They prefer clear and shallow water, where lots of sunlight filters through to their symbiotic algae, which gives them all the energy they need to grow their skeleton.
How old can they be ?
The geological record indicates that ancestors of modern coral reef ecosystems were formed at least 240 millions years ago !
Most established coral reefs are between 5 000 and 10 000 years old.
What's the largest one?
The world’s largest one is the Breat Barrier reef in Queensland, Australia. Composed of over 2 900 individual reefs and 900 islands, stretching for over 2 300 kms. It can be seen from outer space !
What can you do to protect them ?
As a diver to minimize your impact on them :