Coral

For other uses, see Coral (disambiguation).
Orders
Scleractinia

Corals are gastrovascular marine cnidarians (phylum Cnidaria; class Anthozoa) existing as small sea anemone-like polyps, typically forming colonies of many individuals. The group includes the important reef builders known as hermatypic corals, found in tropical oceans, and belonging to the subclass Zoantharia of order Scleractinia (formerly Madreporaria). The latter are also known as stony corals in as much as the living tissue thinly covers a skeleton composed of calcium carbonate. A coral "head" is formed of many individual polyps, each polyp only a few millimetres in diameter. The colony of polyps functions essentially as a single organism by sharing nutrients via a well developed gastrovascular network, and the polyps are clones, each having the same genetic structure. Each polyp generation grows on the skeletal remains of previous generations, forming a structure that has a shape characteristic of the species, but subject to environmental influences.

The hermatypic corals obtain much of their nutrient requirement from symbiotic unicellular algae called zooxanthellae, and so are dependent upon growing in sunlight. As a result, these corals are usually found not far beneath the surface, although in clear waters corals can grow at depths of 60 m (200 ft). Other corals, notably the cold-water genus Lophelia, do not have associated algae, and can live in much deeper water, with recent finds as deep as 3000 m. Corals breed by spawning, with many corals of the same species in a region releasing gametes simultaneously over a period of one to several nights around a full moon.

Corals are major contributors to the physical structure of coral reefs that develop only in tropical and subtropical waters. Some corals exist in cold waters, such as off the coast of Norway (north to at least 69° 14.24' N) and the Darwin Mounds off western Scotland. The most extensive development of extant coral reef is the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Queensland, Australia. Indonesia is home to 581 of the world's 793 known coral reef-building coral species.

Coral types

There are several other types of corals, notably the octocorals (subclass Octocorallia) and corals classified in other orders of subclass Zoantharia: to wit, the black corals (order Antipatharia) and the soft corals (order Zoanthinaria). Extinct corals include rugose corals and tabulate coral. These two groups went extinct at the end of the Paleozoic. Most other anthozoans would be treated under the common name of "sea anemone".

Geological history

Fossil coral Heliophyllum halli from the Devonian of Canada.

Although corals first appeared in the Cambrian period, some 570 million years ago, they are extremely rare as fossils until the Ordovician period, when Rugose and Tabulate corals became widespread.

Tabulate corals occur in the limestones and calcareous shales of the Ordovician and Silurian periods, and often form low cushions or branching masses alongside Rugose corals. Their numbers began to decline during the middle of the Silurian period and they finally became extinct at the end of the Permian period. The skeletons of Tabulate corals are composed of a form of calcium carbonate known as calcite.

Rugose corals became dominant by the middle of the Silurian period, and became extinct early in the Triassic period. The Rugose corals may be either solitary or colonial, and like the Tabulate corals their skeletons are also composed of calcite. The finest details of their skeletal structures are often well preserved, and such fossils may be cut and polished.

Coral skeletons in a zoological display

Scleractinian corals diversified during the Mesozoic and Cenozoic eras and are at the height of their development today. Their fossils may be found in small numbers in rocks from the Triassic period, and they are relatively common fossils in rocks from the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods as well as the Caenozoic era. The skeletons of Scleractinian corals are composed of a form of calcium carbonate known as aragonite. Although they are geologically younger than the Tabulate and Rugose corals, the aragonite skeleton Scleractinian corals does not tend to preserve well, so it is often easier to find fossils of the more ancient Tabulate and Rugose corals.

At certain times in the geological past corals were very abundant, just as modern corals are in the warm clear tropical waters of certain parts of the world today. And like modern corals their fossil ancestors built reefs beneath the ancient seas. Some of these reefs now lie as great structures in the midst of sedimentary rocks. Such reefs can be found in the rocks of many parts of the world including those of the Ordovician period of Vermont, the Silurian period of the Michigan Basin and in many parts of Europe, the Devonian period of Canada and the Ardennes in Belgium, and the Cretaceous period of South America and Denmark. Reefs from both the Silurian and Carboniferous periods have been recorded as far north as Siberia, and as far south as Australia.

Brain coral off the coast of Belize

However, these ancient reefs are not composed entirely of corals. Algae and sponges, as well as the fossilized remains of many echinoids, brachiopods, bivalves, gastropods, and trilobites that lived on the reefs help to build them. These fossil reefs are prime locations to look for fossils of many different types, besides the corals themselves.

Corals are not restricted to just reefs, many solitary corals may be found in rocks where reefs are not present (such as Cyclocyathus which occurs in the Cretaceous period Gault clay formation of England).

As well as being important rock builders, some corals are useful as zone (or index) fossils, enabling geologists to date the age the rocks in which they are found, particularly those found in the limestones of the Carboniferous period.

Environmental effects on coral

A coral reef can be an oasis of marine life.

Coral can be sensitive to environmental changes, and as a result are generally protected through environmental laws. A coral reef can easily be swamped in algae if there are too many nutrients in the water. Coral will also die if the water temperature changes by more than a degree or two beyond its normal range or if the salinity of the water drops. In an early symptom of environmental stress, corals expel their zooxanthellae; without their symbiotic unicellular algae, coral tissues are colorless, revealing the white of their calcium carbonate skeletons, an event known as 'coral bleaching'.

A combination of temperature changes, pollution, and overuse has led to the destruction of many coral reefs around the world. This has increased the importance of coral biology as a subject of study. Climatic variations, such as El Niño, can cause the temperature changes that destroy corals.

Some coral species exhibit banding in their skeletons resulting from annual variations in their growth rate. In fossil and modern corals these bands allow geologists to construct year-by-year chronologies, a kind of incremental dating, which combined with geochemical analysis of each band, can provide high-resolution records of paleoclimatic and paleoenvironamental change.

Uses

Living corals underwater are more colorful than dead coral

Coral reefs are a great source of tourism for scuba diving or snorkelling, however this has conservational implications due to damage from removal or destruction of coral.

Ancient coral reefs on land are often mined for limestone. An example of this is the quarrying of Portland limestone from the Isle of Portland.

Reddish coral is sometimes used as a gemstone especially in Tibet. Pure red coral is known as 'fire coral' and it is very rare because of the demand for perfect fire coral for jewellery-making purposes.


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Pure red coral is known as 'fire coral' and it is very rare because of the demand for perfect fire coral for jewellery-making purposes. See Information: Information is not data for the commonly made distinction between information and data. Reddish coral is sometimes used as a gemstone especially in Tibet. However, In recent interdisciplinary research a few independent specializations of these terms have been proposed. An example of this is the quarrying of Portland limestone from the Isle of Portland. User:Joeblakesley-->. Ancient coral reefs on land are often mined for limestone. It may need clarifying.

Coral reefs are a great source of tourism for scuba diving or snorkelling, however this has conservational implications due to damage from removal or destruction of coral. These three concepts are ill or ambiguously defined in the subject matter literature <--Anyone know what subject matter this is referring to. In fossil and modern corals these bands allow geologists to construct year-by-year chronologies, a kind of incremental dating, which combined with geochemical analysis of each band, can provide high-resolution records of paleoclimatic and paleoenvironamental change. The terms information and knowledge are frequently used for overlapping concepts. Some coral species exhibit banding in their skeletons resulting from annual variations in their growth rate. A similar, earlier term for metadata is "ancillary data." The prototypical example of metadata is the library catalog, which is a description of the contents of books. Climatic variations, such as El Niño, can cause the temperature changes that destroy corals. It is also useful to distinguish metadata, that is, a description of other data.

This has increased the importance of coral biology as a subject of study. Most computer languages make a distinction between programs and the other data on which programs operate, but in some languages, notably Lisp and similar languages, programs are essentially indistinguishable from other data. A combination of temperature changes, pollution, and overuse has led to the destruction of many coral reefs around the world. A computer program is a collection of data, which can be interpreted as instructions. In an early symptom of environmental stress, corals expel their zooxanthellae; without their symbiotic unicellular algae, coral tissues are colorless, revealing the white of their calcium carbonate skeletons, an event known as 'coral bleaching'. Some special forms of data are distinguished. Coral will also die if the water temperature changes by more than a degree or two beyond its normal range or if the salinity of the water drops. More familiar representations, such as numbers or letters, are then constructed from the binary alphabet.

A coral reef can easily be swamped in algae if there are too many nutrients in the water. The most common digital computers use a binary alphabet, that is, an alphabet of two characters, typically denoted "0" and "1". Coral can be sensitive to environmental changes, and as a result are generally protected through environmental laws. A digital computer represents a datum as a sequence of symbols drawn from a fixed alphabet. As well as being important rock builders, some corals are useful as zone (or index) fossils, enabling geologists to date the age the rocks in which they are found, particularly those found in the limestones of the Carboniferous period. An analog computer represents a datum as a voltage, distance, position, or other physical quantity. Corals are not restricted to just reefs, many solitary corals may be found in rocks where reefs are not present (such as Cyclocyathus which occurs in the Cretaceous period Gault clay formation of England). Mechanical computing devices are classified according to the means by which they represent data.

These fossil reefs are prime locations to look for fossils of many different types, besides the corals themselves. Raw data is a relative term; data processing commonly occurs by stages, and the "processed data" from one stage may be considered the "raw data" of the next. Algae and sponges, as well as the fossilized remains of many echinoids, brachiopods, bivalves, gastropods, and trilobites that lived on the reefs help to build them. Such data are typically further processed by a human or input into a computer, stored and processed there, or transmitted (output) to another human or computer. However, these ancient reefs are not composed entirely of corals. Raw data are numbers, characters, images or other outputs from devices to convert physical quantities into symbols, in a very broad sense. Reefs from both the Silurian and Carboniferous periods have been recorded as far north as Siberia, and as far south as Australia. However, given the variety and irregularity of English plural constructions, there seem to be no grounds for arguing that data is incorrect as a singular mass noun in English.

Such reefs can be found in the rocks of many parts of the world including those of the Ordovician period of Vermont, the Silurian period of the Michigan Basin and in many parts of Europe, the Devonian period of Canada and the Ardennes in Belgium, and the Cretaceous period of South America and Denmark. This usage is inconsistent with the rules of Latin grammar, which would suggest, "These are the data ...”; each measurement or result is a single datum. Some of these reefs now lie as great structures in the midst of sedimentary rocks. For example, "This is all the data from the experiment". And like modern corals their fossil ancestors built reefs beneath the ancient seas. The Latin plural data is also used as a plural in English, but it is also commonly treated as a mass noun and used in the singular. At certain times in the geological past corals were very abundant, just as modern corals are in the warm clear tropical waters of certain parts of the world today. In English, the word datum is still used in the general sense of "something given", and more specifically in cartography, geography, geology, and drafting to mean a reference point, reference line, or reference surface.

Although they are geologically younger than the Tabulate and Rugose corals, the aragonite skeleton Scleractinian corals does not tend to preserve well, so it is often easier to find fossils of the more ancient Tabulate and Rugose corals. Such usage is the origin of data as a concept in computer science: data are numbers, words, images, etc., accepted as they stand. The skeletons of Scleractinian corals are composed of a form of calcium carbonate known as aragonite. In discussions of problems in geometry, mathematics, engineering, and so on, the terms givens and data are used interchangeably. Their fossils may be found in small numbers in rocks from the Triassic period, and they are relatively common fossils in rocks from the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods as well as the Caenozoic era. The past participle of "to give" has been used for millennia, in the sense of a statement accepted at face value; one of the works of Euclid, circa 300 BC, was the Dedomena (in Latin, Data). Scleractinian corals diversified during the Mesozoic and Cenozoic eras and are at the height of their development today. The word data is the plural of Latin datum, neuter past participle of dare, "to give", hence "something given".

The finest details of their skeletal structures are often well preserved, and such fossils may be cut and polished. . The Rugose corals may be either solitary or colonial, and like the Tabulate corals their skeletons are also composed of calcite. Such statements may comprise numbers, words, or images. Rugose corals became dominant by the middle of the Silurian period, and became extinct early in the Triassic period. A large class of practically important statements are measurements or observations of a variable. The skeletons of Tabulate corals are composed of a form of calcium carbonate known as calcite. A datum is a statement accepted at face value (a "given").

Their numbers began to decline during the middle of the Silurian period and they finally became extinct at the end of the Permian period. Data is the plural of datum. Tabulate corals occur in the limestones and calcareous shales of the Ordovician and Silurian periods, and often form low cushions or branching masses alongside Rugose corals. Although corals first appeared in the Cambrian period, some 570 million years ago, they are extremely rare as fossils until the Ordovician period, when Rugose and Tabulate corals became widespread. Most other anthozoans would be treated under the common name of "sea anemone".

These two groups went extinct at the end of the Paleozoic. Extinct corals include rugose corals and tabulate coral. There are several other types of corals, notably the octocorals (subclass Octocorallia) and corals classified in other orders of subclass Zoantharia: to wit, the black corals (order Antipatharia) and the soft corals (order Zoanthinaria). .

Indonesia is home to 581 of the world's 793 known coral reef-building coral species. The most extensive development of extant coral reef is the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Queensland, Australia. Some corals exist in cold waters, such as off the coast of Norway (north to at least 69° 14.24' N) and the Darwin Mounds off western Scotland. Corals are major contributors to the physical structure of coral reefs that develop only in tropical and subtropical waters.

Corals breed by spawning, with many corals of the same species in a region releasing gametes simultaneously over a period of one to several nights around a full moon. Other corals, notably the cold-water genus Lophelia, do not have associated algae, and can live in much deeper water, with recent finds as deep as 3000 m. As a result, these corals are usually found not far beneath the surface, although in clear waters corals can grow at depths of 60 m (200 ft). The hermatypic corals obtain much of their nutrient requirement from symbiotic unicellular algae called zooxanthellae, and so are dependent upon growing in sunlight.

Each polyp generation grows on the skeletal remains of previous generations, forming a structure that has a shape characteristic of the species, but subject to environmental influences. The colony of polyps functions essentially as a single organism by sharing nutrients via a well developed gastrovascular network, and the polyps are clones, each having the same genetic structure. A coral "head" is formed of many individual polyps, each polyp only a few millimetres in diameter. The latter are also known as stony corals in as much as the living tissue thinly covers a skeleton composed of calcium carbonate.

The group includes the important reef builders known as hermatypic corals, found in tropical oceans, and belonging to the subclass Zoantharia of order Scleractinia (formerly Madreporaria). Corals are gastrovascular marine cnidarians (phylum Cnidaria; class Anthozoa) existing as small sea anemone-like polyps, typically forming colonies of many individuals.

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