Coral isn’t having a great time right now. But before we get into discovering what’s happening to them and what we can do to help, are we all familiar with what coral actually is?
Is it a plant? Is it an animal? Let’s find out.
Dr. Lynda wrote a wonderful article about coral before, in reference to its astounding beauty and impacts on us, but I would like to talk about the process of growing corals and why scientists are doing so.
To be entirely honest, before I began doing research for this article, I knew basically nothing about coral. I had no idea that they are actually classified as animals, or that they support us in so many ways that often go unnoticed!
So, what is coral?
Believe it or not, corals are actually distant cousins to jellyfish; both residing in the phylum Cnidaria. The coral structures themselves are not animals; each coral is made up of a colony of polyps, which are the animals. They are found in shallow waters so the algae “zooxanthellae,” that inhabit the polyps, can provide nutrients through the process of photosynthesis.
But why am I telling you this when the Georgia Aquarium can! Here is a six-minute clip from SciFri that will tell you everything you need to know about growing corals, and why we’re putting so much effort into raising new populations.
“As a biologist, you have to be very comfortable with failure. But with failure comes success.”
Isn’t that statement true for most things? Without failure, mistakes, accidents… where would we be? We learn from our mistakes and take away a deeper meaning, especially when giving up is not an option.
So, back to our topic of coral—how cool are they? The video touched upon but did not go into detail as to how corals grow, so let’s get into it for a minute.
Coral forms on calcium carbonate, or limestone, and this is generally in the form of skeletons of previous corals. Each polyp consumes the mineral-rich water and deposits the limestone below creating huge structures. This takes time, of course, as we saw in the video with a coral that could fit in the palm of your hand was 9 years in the making. 2
At EWC, we like to end our articles having answered the question “why does it matter?” or “why should we care?” To do that, I had to answer these questions for myself. This took far too long. Like most people, I’m not passionate about coral and zooxanthellae. Then, it came to me.
I came to EWC with this desire to learn more about this amazing world around us that we never hear about on the common news sources. One of our favorite sayings at EWC is “stay curious,” and that’s what I did.
We’ve been given the gift of knowledge with millions of sources of information at our fingertips, so why wouldn’t we want to learn? Even setting the goal of learning one amazing or overall positive thing each day, has limitless benefits. By encouraging others to do the same, we can spread the wealth of knowledge and inspire positivity.
Speaking of! Why not share this article or another Ever Widening Circles article with a friend?
We all can aspire for something better.
Explore a little more!
If you’re curious about more little wonders of nature, jump over to our library to check out our full collection of articles on the subject!