Ocean Creatures of the Coral reef
Hi Ocean lovers,
Here on Maui we are lucky to have the ocean surrounding us. The ocean is a great place to play, surf, swim, and have fun. We visit the ocean for our fun and then we go home each night. The creatures of the coral reef stay in the water all the time and call the reef and the ocean their home. When we go into the ocean we must remember that we are sharing these creatures homes with them. We must think about these creatures, and try to take care of them and their home.
The reef itself is made mostly from Coral:
Coral is actually thousands of tiny creatures living together. These tiny creatures are called polyps. These polyps live together in a community. Together they build their home, and work together to get food and survive. The coral polyps are very fragile creatures, they have soft bodies. So they build a hard case called an exoskeleton. This is made from calcium carbonate that they get from the seawater. The calcium is the hard white stuff that coral is made of. The living part (polyp) can be many different colors.
Its all about Calcium:
Our own bodies use calcium to make our bones, and it is almost the same mineral that makes up the reef. Once the coral polyps builds its exoskeleton it doesn’t move around, it has to stay exactly where it is, and wait for the food to come to it. When one generation of polyps dies, then it makes a space for a new polyp to build. New polyps attach themselves to the empty place and build on top of the calcium left behind by the old polyps. This is how reefs grow up and slowly get bigger. Reefs take many years to grow, and they are very fragile.
Take care of the reef:
Do not step on the reef, because it is bad for your feet, and it is very bad for the coral too. Reef can get damaged by pollution, or dirty water, like when the ocean water gets brown after heavy rains. If this happens too much the coral gets sick and eventually dies. We need to make sure that we do not harm the reef accidentally.
The reef community:
A healthy reef is home not only for the coral polyps, but for other creatures as well. Reefs have many caves and places for other creatures to hide or to make into their home. There are all kinds of Crabs, Shrimp, sea slugs, starfish, shellfish, worms, and seaweeds too. Coral reef is a habitat for a whole lot of different creatures. Some of these creatures eat the algae, some eat the seaweed, and some live from the sunlight. The coral polyps get food by filtering the water for small particles of food, and also by using sunlight. Because coral are animals with a mouth, but they have plants inside them that help them turn sunlight into food. On the reef there are also many creatures that like to eat the worms, and crabs and shrimp. The shrimp and crabs have to hide and be careful not to get eaten. The reef makes a good place to hide and it gives protection from hungry creatures.
Predators and the food chain:
Creatures that eat other creatures are called predators. And they can be anything from a hungry fish, or even an octopus, or a hungry starfish. Small fish will grow and multiply on the reef, and soon attract bigger fish that like to eat small fish. This is called a food chain.
Courtesy of Ocean Education (OE).org
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