About the Coral Reefs Lesson
A lesson on the characteristics of coral. The reading is accompanied by true/false questions.
• To introduce students to the characteristics of coral.
Coral is part of the animal kingdom, a member of the scientific phylum Cnidaria along with other marine creatures including sea jellies. Sea jellies have a soft gelatinous body while a colony of coral, called a coral reef, has a hard brittle surface. How can two apparently dissimilar animals belong to the same phylum? Coral and sea jellies both have a polyp stage. A sea jelly polyp can spawn hundreds of genetically identical sea jelly offspring and a coral polyp can build a coral reef of genetically identical individual coral.
Scuba divers enjoy visiting coral reefs in warm tropical waters and prefer areas where the water is clear. Coral is colorful because certain species of microscopic algae, called zooxanthellae, have a symbiotic relationship with coral polyps. Zooxanthellae provide color and food energy for the coral and create the brittle exoskeleton of coral. Coral reefs attract many species of small tropical fish that can hide from larger predators within the branches of the coral. A coral reef creates its own ecosystem of plants and animals.