Known as the “rainforests of the sea”, coral reefs are the greatest expression of ocean life and the largest living structure on the planet. Coral reefs are beautiful underwater formations made from calcium carbonate secreted by corals. Most of the coral reefs are found in the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland, Australia, and throughout Pacific Ocean. Coral reefs look different from one another and are found in a fantastic range of shapes and colors. There are three major types of coral reefs that exist, namely, fringing, barrier and atoll. Other variants include patch reef, apron reef, bank reef, ribbon reef, table reef, microatolls, cays, and seamounts and guyots. Read on further to know some interesting and fun facts about the unique and colorful coral reefs.
Interesting & Fun Facts About Coral Reefs
- Though coral reefs cover leas than 1% of the Earth’s surface, over 25% of all marine fish species find their homes in coral reefs. These marine species include oysters, sea urchins, sea anemones, jellyfish, crabs, shrimp, sponges, lobsters, octopus, clams, sea turtles and mollusks.
- Coral reefs are found in shallow waters with a range of 60 m depth. While some species can be found in cooler temperate water, others prefer tropical climate, with waters ranging in the temperatures of 19-33 °C.
- A strange fact about coral reefs is that algae are the natural glue that holds them together to maintain their shape.
- About 10 million bacteria live on one square centimeter of coral.
- Coral reefs are found in large numbers called colonies. Individual polyps are linked by tissues to form colonies. An individual polyp can vary from 3-56 mm in diameter or height, while the colonies range from 75-1500 mm in width, height or length.
- The coral polyps are tiny, soft-bodied invertebrate animals with no backbones. Instead, they have a hard, protective limestone skeleton called a calicle found at the base.
- Coral polyps have a lifespan ranging from 2 years to hundreds of years, while corals in colonies are known to live from 5 years to several centuries. Some coral reefs present today are over 50 million years old.
- Parts of Florida would have been under water, if coral reefs would have not existed.
- There are over 500 million people who rely on coral reefs for their food and livelihoods.
- The corals get their color from tiny microscopic plants living within them. They capture energy from the sun by photosynthesis, just like plants do.
- The growth rate of a coral reef is less than 3 cm per year; hence it takes several years to form a large reef.
- Coral reefs protect coastal dwellings, agricultural land and beaches by forming natural barriers, along the shorelines of the sea.
- Less known, coral reefs are widely used in the treatment of cancer, HIV, cardiovascular diseases and ulcers.
- Porous limestone skeletons of the corals have been used in grafting human bones.
- The largest coral reef formation is the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland in North-East Australia formed around 500,000 years ago. It consists of almost 3,000 smaller reefs and covers an area of around 350,000 square kilometers.
- Pacific coral reefs contain more species of fishes, plants and corals than Caribbean coral reefs do.