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Species on Coral Reefs
Coral reefs are home to ¼ of all marine species, yet they cover less than 1/10th of the surface of the world’s oceans. Coral polyps enable this diversity to exist by building a 3 dimensional structure with many different habitats. Coral reefs provide shelter, food and other resources for millions of species.
Fewer than 1000 reef-building coral species exist, but they host a massive diversity of marine life. 35 000 to 60 000 reef dwelling species have been described, but between 1 to 9 million species are estimated live on coral reefs.Some species spend their entire life on a reef. Others, like sharks, Jacks and manta rays are just visitors that come to the reef to feed, be groomed by cleaner fish or other reasons.
Coral reefs can be massive structures. For example, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia is 1250 miles (2000 km) long. Coral polyps create a multitude of habitats for other organisms by building these reefs. Many of reef species are totally reliant on coral reefs, and if reefs are lost then the organisms that rely on them will also be lost.
3 factors influence coral reef diversity:
The “Species on Coral Reefs” section explores how coral reefs create diversity and shows some of the species found in this ecosystem.
Frail, T. (2008, January). Great Barrier Reef. Smithsonian magazine. Retrieved 11 September 2008 from http://www.smithsonianmag.com/specialsections/lifelists/lifelist-barrier-reef.html
Knowelton, N. (2008, January 8). Coral reefs. Current biology 18: 18-21. Retrieved 8 September 2008 from http://www.current-biology.com/content/article/fulltext?uid=PIIS0960982207022166
Pauley, G. (1996). Diversity and distribution of reef organisms. In Life and death of coral reefs (Birkeland, C. ed.). Chapman & Hall: New York.
Vernon, J. (2000). Corals of the world, volume 1. Australian Institute of Marine Science: Townsville.
WWF (2008, February 29). Coral Reefs. World Wildlife fund (WWF). Retrieved 8 September 2008 from http://www.panda.org/about_wwf/what_we_do/marine/blue_planet/coasts/coral_reefs/index.cfm
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