Coral is the collection of skeletons of small marine animals, called “polyps”, which are layer upon layer of calcium carbonate deposits. The coral reef forms when over time, these coral start collecting. The upper layers have organisms living in it.
The coral reef exists as an entire biome of its own, extending about 110,000 square miles worldwide. This complicated eco system has many thousands of plants and animals living in it.
There are many different plants living in the coral reef. Some of them are marine algae, sea grasses, and mangroves. There are also varieties of different fish like gobies, and shrimp that live in the coral reef too.
These coral polyps share a symbiotic relationship with a type of algae called ‘zooxanthellae’. These algae give the polyp oxygen and carbohydrates so that it can photosynthesize. The algae in return, lives off the nitrogen and carbon dioxides that are by products of this photosynthesis.
The Coralline algae that produces calcium carbonate, which is an important product that helps to keep the coral together, by cementing them.
This helps the larger coral reef ecosystem, by protecting them from breaking away by the pressure caused by the ocean waves and currents.
Sea grasses play their part in the coral reef by anchoring their roots into the soil of the ocean floor, so that the plant is kept in place and not uprooted by the ocean waves.
The sea grasses also release oxygen and other important gasses (as by-products of photosynthesis) that the coral needs to breathe.
Small fish called gobies partner with pistol shrimps and live together in the coral reef. The shrimp has poor eyesight, so the shrimp digs for food, while the goby protects it from approaching danger. This relationship also helps the coral reef thrive.
Mangroves behind the coral reefs and sea grass with their roots reaching deep down. These roots protect the coral reef by preventing remains from shore clogging the coral reef area.
Most of the fish living in the coral reef protect themselves from predators by hiding inside the many burrows they have created. The coral reef provides them with a safe home, while they provide the reef with enough food and nourishment.