Coral reefs are some of the most unique and beautiful habitats on earth. While coral reefs make up less than 0.1% of the Earth's oceans, over 25% of all species of marine life can be found there. The majority of these unique and beautiful species cannot be found in any other place on earth.
Most of the animals found in a coral reef are very brightly colored. This serves to confuse predators as the brightly colored marine life fades into a brilliant and beautiful blur. In any other environment, such flashy colors would stand out and make the bright fish an easy meal, but in a coral reef it is very hard to distinguish from the rest of its colorful neighbors.
A coral reef is actually built by tiny animals called coral. These little soft creatures create a protective home for themselves out of calcium. This will grow into a large, strong structure that can provide shelter and a home for fish and other animals.
Coral reefs thrive in shallow, warm, clear waters found in tropical oceans. They actually do best in clear water, which is strangely low in nutrients. This is because they have tiny plants called algae growing in their bodies. During the day, the plants give corals energy by photosynthesis. The coral also eats tiny bits of food passing by in the current.
Many species of coral will actually glow in beautiful neon colors under ultra-violet light.
Coral reefs are essential to the protection and sometimes even formation of many tropical islands. A coral reef will absorb much of the impact of waves and storms that could otherwise erode away the shoreline. A large amount of the sand on the beaches of tropical islands is actually ground up coral that washes ashore. In some cases, the sand from a coral reef can actually pile up to the point that a new island will rise out of the ocean.