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Coral Reef ridge or elevated part of a relatively shallow area of the seafloor approaching the seas surface It is formed by a rocklike accumulation of calcareous calcium-containing exoskeletons of Coral animals red algae and mollusks Built up layer by layer by living corals growing on top of the skeletons of past generations coral reefs grow upward at rates of 1 to 20 cm per year Coral reefs are tropical extending to about 30 north and south of the equator and forming only where surface waters are never cooler than 20 C 68 F Coral reefs are ecosystems with well-defined structures that involve both photosynthetic algae and consumers Inside the coral animals live single-celled round algae called zooxanthellae Below and surrounding the polyps is a calcareous skeleton both living and dead that contains green algae Other species of algae both fleshy and calcareous grow in the surface of old skeletal deposits These algae make up most of the primary producers The photosynthetic zooxanthellae and filamentous green algae transfer some food energy directly to the coral polyps Coral animals also feed at night on zooplankton which they capture with their tentacles Coral animals prey on zooplankton not so much for the calories but for scarce nutrients especially phosphorus Through digestion coral animals release these nutrients to the algae Coral and algae then apparently cycle these nutrients between them reducing nutrient loss to the water Herbivorous fish such as the butterfly fish as well as sea urchins sea cucumbers and brittle stars Hiding in the numerous caves and crevices of a reef are predatory animals such as small crabs moray eels and sharks The numerous little habitats and the producting of the reefs support a great diversity of marine life Coral reefs are among the most diverse and productive communities on Earth They are found in the warm clear shallow waters of tropical oceans worldwide Reefs have functions ranging
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