Colorful Underwater Gardens

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Learn About: Coral Reefs

Photograph by Mark Conlin, Alamy

I visit coral reefs whenever I go for a swim. Some are very old and have been around for 50 million years. That means they’ve had 50 million birthday cakes, and are older than dinosaurs!

Coral comes in all shapes and sizes, and looks like an underwater garden. Its color comes from algae that live on the coral. The algae produces food for the coral, and the coral gives the algae a nice place to live. Coral can be found living near the surface of tropical waters so sunshine can filter through the water and reach the algae, which needs sunlight to survive.

Coral is a type of animal called a “polyp.” A polyp attaches itself to a rock on the ocean floor then copies itself in a process called budding. (Just like the flowers you see in gardens and parks in springtime.) The new polyps connect to each other and form a coral colony. When many colonies are together, they create a reef.

Coral covers less than 1 percent of the ocean’s floor but nearly 25 percent of the ocean’s creatures live in it—including many of my algae friends. It’s important to keep coral safe, because it can suffer if the water temperature rises and the algae cannot survive.

Marmo’s Tip: Let’s keep the ocean temperatures safe for coral and its algae. Ask your parents to help protect coral reefs by using less energy which can reduce global warming, prevent the ocean temperature from rising, and help maintain the beautiful coral!