What you need to know about corals. PART 1.
Hi there. I'm here to ask you what corals are? I mean, what they REALLY are? O.K., for those of you who already know, you guys can just go...eat some cake, drink beer or something. For the rest of you, it's time for some learning. Yups, it's not examinable. So...please please don't go away...COME BACK! It's FUN facts. Not serious stuff. I promise to make this short and painless. Promise.
OK, here's the real deal. What do you think corals are? Do you think they're animals? Or plants? Or rocks? Hmm Hmmm Hmmmmm?????
Your coral, as an individual, is essentially an ANIMAL. YES! An animal!! Like you and me...and the tigers and babboons at the zoo! And just like the polar bears at the zoo, these coral polyps (individuals) harbour ALGAE in their bodies. Just that the algae they harbour are not only GREEN, but of many different colours! That's what makes corals so colourful. (By the way, for those muggers out there, the name of the algae harboured in corals is ZOOXANTHELLAE)
The algae photosynthesizes and gives some food to the coral, while the coral provides the algae with a home and protection. Kinda like a landlord and the mafia at the same time. Oh, but not ALL corals like to harbour algae in them though. These are called AHERMATYPIC corals (like, Turbinaria
species corals). Most do, though, have algae in them.
The coral polyp is actually just a big huge stomach with a big mouth and many hands. Kinda like me when I'm really really really hungry. Or maybe just during lunch time. Anyway, point is, they're not very complex beings. Here's a what a coral polyp looks like:
A coral polyp. (Turbinaria sp.)
Coral polyps can also look like these. Corals come in many different shapes, sizes, colour...basically, they're like you, me and your neighbours. All kinds.
Another coral polyp. (Favia sp.)
Corals are mostly social creatures. Well, if you can refer to it as social. They live in big big big big groups, called colonies. And these colonies are essentially made up of clones and clones and clones of the same coral polyp all living in a rocky hard housing.
A coral COLONY. (Turbinaria sp.)
It's like a neighbourhood of TWINS. Since they're all genetically identical. Well...unless some mutation occurs. OK OK I promised this will not be too technical and painful! So, back to...non-techy stuff.
Here's what the Favia
coral colony looks like:
Another coral COLONY. (Favia sp.)
This rocky hard housing is actually calcium carbonate secreted by the coral polyps. As individuals die off, it gets built up and up and up to make the corals look bigger and bigger and bigger. Imagine new houses being built on mounds of old torn down houses year after year. Your house would be pretty high up. Same thing for corals, the living tissue is only the first few millimeter and the rest are just old dead houses of corals long and gone. Cool eh.
I dunno yet, but I can guarantee you it'll be interesting when I think of something! If you have some ideas...that'll be good. Hehe. LOOK OUT FOR IT!