l reefs are one of nature's most magnificent creations, filled with thousands of unique and valuable plants and animals. More than one quarter of all marine animals is dependent on coral reefs. Coral reefs are also a source of food and income for millions of people too. The coral reef ecosystems benefit humans commercially, recreationally and environmentally. Because of the complex interconnections between coral reefs, mangrove forests, sea grass beds, and many other different plants and animals, coral is very susceptible to destruction. One small change in any of these things can affect mass quantities of coral. That is why it is important to educate people about coral and how complex of a species they really are. That is the purpose of this report, to educate you and make you aware of that complexity. .
Coral is often mistakenly identified as a rock, but in all actuality, it is an animal. The actual coral is composed of small animals called coral polyps. Most polyps are very small, although rare species can grow quite large. One coral branch or mound is composed of thousands of polyps. These thousands of polyps are called a coral colony. Polyps are nocturnal and stay inside their skeletons during the day. However, at night they can be seen when they stick their tentacles out to feed. .
Corals reproduce in many different ways. Some species are hermaphrodites, and produce both sperm and eggs, and some are single sexed organisms. They can reproduce both sexually or asexually. In most species, the egg and sperm are released into the water and random fertilization occurs. This is called coral spawning. The larva is attracted to the light and swims to the surface of the water where it remains for weeks. If the larva can survive without being eaten by predators, it will sink back to the bottom of the ocean floor. Hear it will attach itself to a hard substrate and will grow into a coral polyp.