Coral Reef

Aubrey Laity & Leah Conrad

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Coral reefs are diverse underwater ecosystems that are created by colonies of tiny animals that are found in marine waters. They're mostly built from stony corals, which consist of polyps that cluster in groups. Reefs grow best in warm, shallow, sunny, clear, and agitated waters and they occupy less than 0.1% of the world's ocean surface. Despite this, coral reefs provide a home for at least 25% of all marine species on the Earth!
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The spiral wire coral is one of 16 species of Cirrhipathes. They come in multiple color combinations, but they're most likely to be found sporting a red to yellow range with a good likelihood of blues and grays. Wire corals are carnivorous and eat small foods like baby brine, cyclop-eeze, fish eggs, rotifers, and other zooplanktons.

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The banded coral shrimp, or stenopus hispidus, is the largest known cleaner shrimp that lives in shallow tropical waters. They mate for life, and mating only takes place when the female is in her vulnerable ecdysis molting phase. They have no natural predators, but are very territorial with other shrimp. Banded coral shrimp are also known as barber pole shrimp or coral banded shrimp.

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This squid is commonly found in the shallow waters surrounding the Caribbean. While they're often confused with cuttlefish, it's only they have large fins that wrap around their mantles and they're broader than most other squids. On a typical day, this squid eats between 30-60% of its body weight. It catches its prey with the ends of its tentacles, then brings it to its beak where it cuts it into smaller pieces, then the tongue, or radula, eats it. Mostly, it eats small fish, molluscs, and crustaceans. To communicate, Carribean Reef Squid will change the color of their skin.

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The Giant Clam, or tridacna gigas, is an invertabrate and carnivore that lives in the coral reef. Once it finds a home, it'll stay in the same place until it's death, which can be over one hundred years. They're capable of reaching four feet in length and being five hundred pounds! They are mostly found in the warm waters in the South Pacific and Indian Ocean areas.

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A sea urchin is a spiny, omnivorous, hard shelled animal. They live on the sea floor, and there's about 700 different species! They eat plant and animal matter like kelp, algae, dead fish, sponges, mussels, and barnacles. Many have venomous spines, though they're still prey for crabs, snails, sea otters, and sunflower stars. The biggest sea urchin, named the 'red sea urchin' is about 7 inches in diameter.

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Seagrass is found in shallow sheltered marine and estuarine waters. When found in large quanties, they form seagrass meadows which are extremely important for the life under the sea. These meadows provide homes to fish, invertebrate animals. marine reptiles, and mammals. Also, they're used as feeding, breeding, and nursery areas.

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Sea lettuce is a type of green algae, also known as 'ulva lactuca." It's an edible type of alage, and the blades can grow to over sixteen inches long if in the right conditions! Most are somewhere between light and dark green in color. Sea lettuce is eaten by manatees, sea slugs, and people all across the world.

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Zooxanthellae lives in the tissue of corals in a mutualistic relationship. Coral gives algae a protected environment and compounds for photosynthesis. The zooxanthellae then produces oxygen and helps the coral remove wastes.

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Algae is a collection of tiny plants, which can be microscopic, that don't have roots, stems, or leaves. It's a source of food for small fish and invertebrate sea life, and it's a major help in making reefs bigger. Australia's Great Barrier Reef has about five hundred species of marine algae, which includes sea lettuce, sea grapes, and red algae.

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Sargassum is a type of brown seaweed and algae that's found in warm shallow water and coral reefs. It can grow to several meters long, and it's generally brown or dark green in color. Many have a sticky rough texture along with a flexible body that help it withstand strong water currents.

Climate and Climograph

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Corals respond to small changes in temperature, rainfall, and water clarity in a matter of months, making them a uniquely sensitive as a coral reef biome. Coral reefs don’t exist everywhere in the world, because they can only survive in warm, tropical waters. The highest rainfall months are the beginning of the year with January through March. Then, between June and October, average rainfall is at its lowest. For temperature, December through February are the highest months, and July is the lowest.


There is no soil in the coral reef biome, instead coral is the foundation, which is an organism.

Annual Temperature Range

Coral reefs are normally found in the tropical and semitropical areas of the world, where water temperatures range between 61 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit.

Annual Rainfall Amounts

The rainfall for Coral Reefs average around 80 inches per year, am the heaviest rainfall month is February.

Special Landmarks and Features

The Great Barrier Reef, located in the Coral Sea, off the coast of Queensland, Australia, is the world's largest coral reef system composed of over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands stretching for over 1,400 miles over an area of approximately 133,000 sq miles.

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At the bottom of the food web are some main photosynthetic organisms. They are algae, plants, cyanobacteria, and bacteria. Above them are the herbivores, which are many invertebrates and some fish. The most important are parrot fish, surgeon fish, rabbit fish, rudder fish, and damsel fish. Some lager herbivores are sea turtles, manatees, and dugongs. Then, at the top of the food chain are the carnivores, which eat mostly zooplankton and other animal members of the community. The most notable carnivores are barracuda, sharks, large seabasses, trumpet fish, and large snappers.


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As the energy is transferred from layer to layer, it's only transferred with 10% left. Primary producers like phytoplankton and seaweed get energy from the sun. Then, it goes to the herbivorous consumers like zooplankton and cockies. After that, it goes to the first level carnivorous consumers like young fish and jellyfish, crustaceans, and sea stars. Next is thesecond level of carnivorous consumers, which is just larger fish. Towards the end is the third level of carnivorous consumers like squid. Finally, at the top of the energy chain are the top carnivores like sharks and dolphins.

How Human Activity has Impacted the Coral Reef

Chemicals, like pesticides and fertilizers, that are released into coastal waters by agriculture and industry can cause coral reef destruction by nutrient loading. Pesticides destroy and damage zoo plankton and and accumulating in animal tissue that then causes issues physiologically. Herbicides can destroy zooxanthallae in coral, phytoplankton, algae, and sea grass which then disrupts the food chain, too. Chemicals being released into the water by oil spills effects reproduction, defensive responses, growth rate and feeding, and cell structure in corals. To fix all these issues that have accumulated because of humans releasing their waste, companies could easily stop flooding the waters with chemicals and instead put their waste somewhere safe and eco-friendly.

Why is the Coral Reef an Interesting Place?

1. The Great Barrier Reef alone has 600 types of coral, more than 100 species of jellyfish, 3000 varieties of molluscs, 1625 types of fish, 133 varieties of sharks and rays, and over 30 species of whales and dolphins!

2. Reefs that are noticable in size are between five and ten thousand years old!

3. There's three types; barrier reefs, fringing reefs, and atolls.

4. Reefs formed by corals are one of the most diverse marine areas on the Earth and they have thousands of species of everything living. The reason behind the diversity is the fact that reefs are an important location for finding food, mates, shelter, and places to reproduce. Reefs also act as safe homes for large fish species, therefore keeping them safe until they are large enough to go out into the deeper ocean.

5. The Great Barrier Reef in Australia is so large that it can be seen from outer space!