the coral reef

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Swimming with turtles on an Hawaiian Coral Reef

ecosystems coral reef

diverse underwater ecosystems held together by calcium carbonate structures secreted by corals. Coral reefs are built by colonies of tiny animals found in marine waters that contain few nutrients. Most coral reefs are built from stony corals, which in turn consist of polyps that cluster in groups. The polyps belong to a group of animals known as Cnidaria, which also includes sea anemones and jellyfish.

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Blacktip Reef Shark (Carcharhinus melanopterus)

Photos taken by Connor Butler - Tioman Island, Malaysia. 

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Ray swimming above coral reef, Maldives

This open coral reef diorama in ¡Cuba! represents a string of jewel-like keys to the south of the main island of Cuba called the Gardens of the Queen (Jardines de la Reina). Here, silvery fish zip past banks of coral studded with colorful starfish, sea fans, and sponges. To protect this vital diversity, Cuba has created the largest marine reserve in the Caribbean. Coral reefs are some of the richest ecosystems on Earth, and on many Caribbean coastlines, they are in danger of disappearing. But in this protected area in Cuba, the reef is wonderfully alive. The diorama includes models of a hawksbill turtle, tiger shark, and spotted eagle ray. ©AMNH/M. Shanley

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Flying over the Great Barrier Reef seems rather impressive

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Harlequin Shrimp

Excuse me, I’m swimming here! 

Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary visitor Daryl Duda spotted this balloonfish at Pickles Reef. At night, balloonfish hunt the reef for mollusks and crustaceans. When threatened, a balloonfish can inflate its body by taking in water, making its spikes stand out defensively! 

(Photo: Daryl Duda)

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Underwater view of (healthy) coral on the Great Barrier Reef. Note how blue the water is above it.