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Coral Reefs

Coral reefs are aragonite structures produced by living organisms. They are found in shallow, tropical marine waters with little nutrients in the water. In most reefs, the predominant organisms are stony corals, colonial cnidarians that secrete an exoskeleton of calcium carbonate. The accumulation of skeletal material, broken and piled up by wave action and bio-eroders, produces a massive calcareous formation that supports the living corals.

Coral Reef, in the Great Barrier Reef, Australia


A coral "head", commonly thought to be a single organism, is actually formed of thousands of individual but genetically identical polyps. Each polyp is only a few millimeters in diameter. A head of coral grows by asexual reproduction of the individual polyps. Corals also breed sexually by spawning, with corals of the same species.

Coral Reefs in Papua New Guinea



Anatomy of a Coral Polyp

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