Introduction to Coral Reefs

Coral reefs are complete ecosystems that exist under the seas – in fact they are ancient animals that feed off of sunlight and algae. Coral reefs are closely related to jellyfish and sea anemones. Coral reefs are actually living organisms – extraordinary geological structures, that make up vast and beautiful castles of colors beneath our seas. Some look like huge mushrooms with platforms of umbrella-like structures that descend down, one after one, deep into the sea. Some reefs form into rings called atolls.

Coral reefs are always found in shallow areas of deep seas, where islands have been formed due to volcanoes or tectonic plate shifts. Reefs can form only in shallow, clear, brightly sunlit waters where the temperatures range between 64 and 92 degrees Fahrenheit. Consequently, reefs are very vulnerable – and in that shallow water, will die in very hot temperatures. Now, because of global warming, coral reefs are threatened with extinction. If they were annihilated, even if they return one day (if the earth ever cools), they will look very, very different than they do now.

Thousands of beautiful fish live in these coral systems, and what makes these fish so beautiful is they take typically take on several colors of the coral and beautiful waters around them – turning into the most lovely colors imaginable–blues melded with neon pinks and oranges, pinks melded with bright yellows and whites – the colors of the fish are simply breathtaking. Coral reefs are also inhabited by octocorals, beautiful sea turtles, mollusks, and impressive rays that all call the reefs their home. In fact, one fourth of the world’s sea life live in these reefs.

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