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Wild Reef

In a crash of waves, descend into Wild Reef and get a diver’s-eye view of a diverse marine metropolis. Get as close as you want to sharks. Explore underwater gardens of iridescent corals and — yes — garden eels. Wander through a lagoon and mangrove forest and visit a fishing village where residents saved their reef from destruction — all in this award-winning exhibit.

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Facts About Coral

What's There

Coral reefs are underwater structures made from calcium carbonate secreted by corals. Corals are colonies of tiny living animals found in marine waters containing few nutrients. Most coral reefs are built from stony corals, and are formed by polyps that live together in groups. The polyps secrete a hard carbonate exoskeleton which provides support and protection for the body of each polyp. Reefs grow best in warm, shallow, clear, sunny and agitated waters.

Often called “rainforests of the sea”, coral reefs form some of the most diverse ecosystems on earth. They occupy less than 1% of the world ocean surface, about half the area of France, yet they provide a home for 25% of all marine species, including fishes, molluscs, echinoderms and sponges.[1]

Paradoxically, coral reefs flourish even though they are surrounded by ocean waters that provide few nutrients. They are most commonly found at shallow depths in tropical waters, particularly in the Pacific Ocean, but deep water and cold water corals exist on a much smaller scale.

They are named after the barbed stinger (actually a modified dermal denticle) on their tail, which is used exclusively in self-defense. The stinger may reach a length of approximately 35 cm, and its underside has two grooves with venom glands.[3] The stinger is covered with a thin layer of skin, the integumentary sheath, in which the venom is concentrated.[4] Some species have several stingers, and a few, notably Urogymnus asperrimus, lack a sting entirely.[5]

Coral Reef

Other types of rays also referred to as stingrays are the river stingrays (family Potamotrygonidae), the round stingrays (families Urolophidae and Urotrygonidae), the sixgill stingray (family Hexatrygonidae), and the deepwater stingray (family Plesiobatidae). For clarity, the members of the family Dasyatidae are sometimes called whip-tail stingrays.[6]

A fish is any aquatic vertebrate animal that is covered with scales, and equipped with two sets of paired fins and several unpaired fins. Most fish are ectothermic (or cold-blooded). Fish are abundant in most bodies of water. Fish can be found in high mountain streams (e.g., char and gudgeon) and in the deepest ocean depths (e.g., gulpers and anglerfish). According to FishBase, 31,500 species of fishes had been described by January 2010.[1]

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As an example of how coral reefs have formed on continental shelves, the current living reef structure of the Great Barrier Reef began growing about 20,000 years ago. The sea level was then 120 metres (390 ft) lower than it is today.[8][9] As the sea level rose, the water and the corals encroached on what had been the hills of the coastal plain. By 13,000 years ago the sea level was 60 metres (200 ft) lower than at present, and the hills of the coastal plains were, by then, continental islands. As the sea level rise continued most of the continental islands were submerged. The corals could then overgrow the hills, forming the present cays and reefs. The sea level on the Great Barrier Reef has not changed significantly in the last 6,000 years,[9] and the age of the present living reef structure is estimated to be between 6,000 and 8,000 years.[10] Although the Great Barrier Reef formed along a continental shelf, and not around a volcanic island, the same principles apply as outlined by Darwin's theory above. The Great Barrier Reef development has stopped at the barrier reef stage, since Australia is not about to submerge. It has formed the world's largest barrier reef, 300–1000 metres (330-1100 yards) from shore, and 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi) long.[11]