"A coral reef is a submerged structure made up of many different polyps, or small marine invertebrates. These polyps are unable to move and cluster with other corals to form colonies, secreting calcium carbonate that binds them together to form a reef." Coral reefs have a mutually-beneficial arrangement with algae that live protected in the polyps while making up much of their food. Each individual animal (polyp) in the reef has a very hard exoskeleton which makes them appear strong and rock-like. Coral reefs cover only one percent of the ocean's floor yet are home to twenty-five percent of the world's marine species.
Coral reefs vary greatly in terms of size and type but all are sensitive to water properties like temperature and chemical composition. Nearly all world's coral reefs are in the tropics. Following are the nine largest reefs, starting with the smallest.
9. Reed Bank - South China Sea, claimed by the Philippines but disputed by China.
Area: 3,423 square miles (8,866 sq. km)
8. Great Chagos Bank - The Maldives (Indian Ocean)
Area: 4,633 square miles (12,00 sq km)
7. Saya de Malha Banks - Part of the Mascarene Plateau in the Indian Ocean. It's home to the largest continuous beds of seagrass in the world
Area: 15,444 square miles (40,000 sq km)
6. Andros Island Barrier Reef - Located between the islands of Andros and Nassau. It is home to 164 species and is famous for its deep-water sponges and a large population of red snapper. It sits along a deep trench called the Tongue of the Ocean.
Area: 124 miles long (200 km)
5. Florida Reef - Located in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico, near Florida. It is the United States only coral reef and is worth $8.5 billion to the state's economy. It is disintegrating rapidly, faster than scientists first thought, due to the acidification of the ocean's water. Its home is the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary but does extend into the Gulf of Mexico
Area: 360 miles (579 km)
4. The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef - Located in the Atlantic Ocean near Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras. It is the largest coral reef in the Western Hemisphere and is sometimes called the Great Mayan Reef. It is a UNESCO (United Nationals Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) site where species of fish, including whale sharks live. it is also home to 350 species of mollusk.
Area: 585 miles (943 km)
3. New Caledonia Barrier Reef - Located in the Pacific Ocean, near New Caledonia. Its diversity and beauty has it listed too, on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list. It's even more diverse than the Great Barrier Reef and houses many threatened marine species.
Area: 932 miles (1,500 km)
2. Red Sea Coral Reef - Located in the Red Sea, near Egypt, Israel, and Djibouti. The corals in the Red Sea are being studies, especially those found in the northern part near the Gulf of Eilat because they seem to be able to withstand high temperatures.
Area: 1,180 miles in length (1,900 km)
1. The Great Barrier Reef - Located in the Coral Sea near Australia. It is part of a protected national park in Australia and is large enough to be seen from space!
Area: 1,553 miles (2,500 km)
I hope you enjoyed learning about the some of the world's beautiful coral reefs. Some of them are well-known while others are a bit more obscure. But all of them play an important role in maintaining Earth's grand biodiversity.
Please come back tomorrow to find out what lesson my wise teacher The Dharma Frog, has in store for me this week. Until tomorrow, I wish you