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Complexity and biodiversity of a coral reef

the coral reef

The coral reef 

In a forest it is easy to see the plants that make food from sunlight. On a coral reef there appears to be no plants. Hidden in the tissue of coral polyps and clams are special algae. The algae provide food and oxygen to the coral polyps and clams. The algae receives protection from their bigger partners.

When you see your first coral reef, you will be amazed by the number of different fish with dazzling colours. Everywhere you look there are different types of animals like crabs, shrimps, sea stars, snails and many more.

Most plants in a coral reef are microscopic and float freely in the water. The animals that feed on them are also microscopic. The teeny plants are called phytoplankton and the animals are called zooplankton. The zooplankton becomes the main source of food for many larger animals living in a coral reef.

If you know what to look for you can find a small amount of limestone secreting algae that covers dead coral. Turf algae grow in places where it can hang onto and is an important food for many animals.

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