CORAL REEFS: Compound Animals

We’re listening to underwater sounds recorded at Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Although coral appears to be a single organism, there’s more to it than meets the eye. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History.

“Corals are animals that are closely related to Jellyfish and Sea Anemones. They’re very primitive in structure in that they don’t have a backbone. They do have a skeleton, however, which is made of calcium carbonate. And they secrete the skeleton as they grow.”

Dr. Dennis Thoney is the General Curator of New York’s Aquarium for Wildlife Conservation. He tells us that coral is actually a colony of interdependent life forms.

“Corals live very closely with a type of algae which lives in their tissues. Because of that, corals need to live in very clear coastal waters, where they can get sunlight for this algae. And the algae provide food for the corals. And the corals in turn provide a place for the algae to live, as well as waste products, which the algae then use to photosynthesize.”

And when the coral colonies congregate, you get a coral reef — a giant, living, compound structure.

“The coral reef is alive. The corals themselves are a thin layer of tissue that lives over the skeletons. And as they grow, they produce more skeleton down below. As they grow, other plants, and other animals that are there, secrete materials that basically act as a cement to glue all these skeletons together to form one big, giant reef. And in fact, coral reefs are the largest animal-made structure in the world, and the only one that can be seen from outer space.”

We’ll hear more about coral reefs in future programs. Pulse of the Planet is presented by the American Museum of Natural History. I’m Jim Metzner.

CORAL REEFS: Compound Animals

There’s more to coral than meets the eye.
Air Date:12/22/1997
Scientist:
Transcript:

We're listening to underwater sounds recorded at Australia's Great Barrier Reef. Although coral appears to be a single organism, there's more to it than meets the eye. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History.

"Corals are animals that are closely related to Jellyfish and Sea Anemones. They're very primitive in structure in that they don't have a backbone. They do have a skeleton, however, which is made of calcium carbonate. And they secrete the skeleton as they grow."

Dr. Dennis Thoney is the General Curator of New York's Aquarium for Wildlife Conservation. He tells us that coral is actually a colony of interdependent life forms.

"Corals live very closely with a type of algae which lives in their tissues. Because of that, corals need to live in very clear coastal waters, where they can get sunlight for this algae. And the algae provide food for the corals. And the corals in turn provide a place for the algae to live, as well as waste products, which the algae then use to photosynthesize."

And when the coral colonies congregate, you get a coral reef -- a giant, living, compound structure.

"The coral reef is alive. The corals themselves are a thin layer of tissue that lives over the skeletons. And as they grow, they produce more skeleton down below. As they grow, other plants, and other animals that are there, secrete materials that basically act as a cement to glue all these skeletons together to form one big, giant reef. And in fact, coral reefs are the largest animal-made structure in the world, and the only one that can be seen from outer space."

We'll hear more about coral reefs in future programs. Pulse of the Planet is presented by the American Museum of Natural History. I'm Jim Metzner.