One of Planet Earth’s Most Fascinating Ecosystems

Coral Reefs Are Vast, Diverse, and Threatened With Extinction

by Ashley Luse, age 12

Contrary to what one might think, coral reefs are home to many sea creatures.
Coral reefs are located all over the world. They live in the ocean and rely on moving water to bring oxygen to thier tissue and to get rid of their waste.
A coral, or polyp, is a living ocean plant. A polyp’s body is made up of a sac with a mouth, a gut and a half circle skeleton. It also has tentacles. On its tentacles are sharp objects that it uses to catch prey.
Corals can reproduce in two ways. One way is releasing eggs into the ocean. The eggs meet with sperm to create larvae. The larvae then move with the ocean currents until they find a place to grow into a new coral. Another way for a coral to reproduce is by separating into two parts, a process called budding. During this process new polyps bud from the original polyp’s tissue.
Coral reefs are important to ocean ecosystems because they are home to many other sea creatures. Predators eat smaller fish that have moved in or around the reef. These smaller fish eat tiny organisms called plankton. Some fish avoid predators by staying near the reef, while some just blend right in.
Zooxanthellae is a single-celled organism which lives on coral cells. It uses the sun, water and carbon dioxide to produce carbohydrates and oxygen, a process known as photosynthesis. This creates energy for the polyps to grow and develop.
Photosynthesis is what allows coral reefs to grow so vastly. But coral reefs are being threatened by global warming, overfishing and pollution. Over 25 percent of the world’s reefs have already been destroyed.

[Sources: Simpson Street Free Press; Atlas of the World ]

Wow, Ashley, this is great writing. Nice job. Very interesting article. – James Kramer , Monona, WI (2014-09-05 21:20)