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About Coral Reefs The world's first coral reefs occurred about 500 million years ago, and the first close relatives of modern corals developed in southern Europe about 230 million years ago. Most modern reefs have formed on hard surfaces in the ocean, such as a base of an old reef that died during a period when sea level was lower, or the edge of a rocky island. Some coral reefs form in the deep ocean and are called atolls.An atoll starts life as a fringing reef, then becomes more of a ring growing on the shrinking land-mass, until the land disappears and just the coral circle remains. Depending on how they start out, several types of reefs can form.
There are two kinds of hydrocorals: fire and lace corals.
Fire coral, sometimes called stinging coral, gives you a painful, burning feeling when it touches your bare skin. The sting is not dangerous but the rash can itch for a few days.
Stony corals are the basic building blocks of tropical coral reefs.
Hard corals grow in colonies. These colonies that give the reef structure lots of calcium carbonate are called reef-building corals.
Gorgonian colonies are attached to a hard surface by a single anchor at the base of a stem.
Different gorgonians have different branching patterns. The inter connected net-like branching is typical for sea fans while sea whips and sea plumes have pinnate branching pattern.
Black corals live in the deep and shallow ocean.
Many black coral forests in the Caribbean have been totally destroyed. Black coral colonies are slow-growing so it will take them over 100 years to re-grow and flourish once more.
Coral Reproduction Corals reproduce in two ways: asexually and sexually. Some corals divide to form new individuals. This is known as asexual reproduction. Sexual reproduction takes place as mass spawning, where polyps release millions of eggs and sperm. Polyps are either male or female or both male and female. After the eggs and sperm are released, they float to the surface. The fertilized eggs that escape predation by other animals hatch into larvae and drift with the plankton. The tiny percent that survive and settle on the reef then begin new coral colonies.
Coral Reef Destruction There is no doubt that coral reefs are in great danger of being destroyed. If you did not know, a large amount of the worlds coral reefs have already been destroyed in a few different ways, from coral reef bleaching to physically killing them in practices such as fishing with explosives. The ever rising temperatures also have a very negative effect on coral reefs throughout the world. Coral reef bleaching is basically when the corals lose their color, which is seen when they begin to turn white. Exploding coral reefs for purposes such as fishing has the same devastating effect. Many coral reefs are instantly killed in this process, making them very vulnerable to these sorts of behavior. Coral reefs will also start bleaching when the temperature becomes too hot or the water becomes too salty, as it places large amounts of stress on the corals.