Coral reefs are formed in the depths of large saline water bodies, that is, seas and oceans. They are formed by the deposition of calcium carbonate in water. The importance of coral reefs is such, that, even though there are not many nutrients present in and around them, they still are the source of food and nutrition for many aquatic flora and fauna. Coral reefs play an important role in marine biology. They are the natural habitat for a large number of animals and plants that form an inherent part of our ecosystem. Coral reefs are found in the deepest portions of the seas and oceans.
Let us read about some coral reef animals.
As the name suggests, crustaceans are those animals that have a crust for their body. These animals have a thick exoskeleton. This exoskeleton is molted by them as they grow. This means that they shed their initial crust and develop a new one as they grow and mature. The members of the crustaceans family which reside in coral reefs are,
Mollusks are part of the invertebrates phylum. Most of them are marine animals and comprise about 15-18% of the marine biology as far as animals are concerned. They have a cavity in their body which facilitates breathing and excretion. The animals which fall under this category are,
- Cephalopods: Squid, Octopus, Nautilus, Cuttlefish, etc.
Sea anemones are predaceous animals that inhabit coral reefs. They survive on small fish and other small marine animals. They have a circular disc, which serves as the oral opening. This opening is surrounded by tentacles, and at the bottom of the body, is a foot-like structure, which has an adherent substance that helps it to move around, stop, and eat. They are most commonly seen with clownfish. Clownfish act as a protection from other sea predators, who try to eat the sea anemones.
Hard and Soft Corals
Corals are the major component of the coral reef. But that's quite obvious, isn't it? The corals that inhabit coral reefs can be classified into soft corals and hard corals. Soft corals do not form a reef construction. Hard corals, on the other hand, due to the deposition of limestone, are characterized by the formation of the reef structure at the base of the ocean.
- Sea Fingers
- Sea Whips
- Red Mushroom Coral
- Elkhorn Coral
- Brain Coral
- Tubastrea Cup Coral
Other Coral Reef Animals
Other coral reef animals that are seen in the vicinity of large and small reefs are mentioned below. They depend on the corals for their food, nutrients, and often times, for their shelter too.
- Sea Urchins
- Sea Snakes
- Sea Birds
- Sea Worms
Adaptations of these animals include the thick exoskeleton, symbiosis with other creatures (like the sea anemones and the clownfish), tentacles to grab hard and reach food particles, stinging, etc. The threats to coral reefs are growing day by day, due to pollution, global warming, etc. Care must be taken to preserve this important component of our ecosystem.