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. Talk to local authorities or park rangers to see if it is advisable before taking such a risk. Reddish coral is sometimes used as a gemstone especially in Tibet. Jogging, running, and biking on wildland trails can be particularly hazardous since such runners are likely to be less attentive to the surroundings and the motion can trigger a "chase and kill" reflex in the animal. An example of this is the quarrying of Portland limestone from the Isle of Portland. California law requires that wild animals who have attacked a human must be killed if they can be located. Ancient coral reefs on land are often mined for limestone. This, as well as the extinction in California of the wolf and brown bear, has allowed the puma to greatly increase its numbers, as there are usually no longer any competing predators able to steal a puma's kill, though a few black bears may be strong enough to do so.

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. Pumas cannot be hunted in California except under very specific circumstances. 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. A young male puma was shot nearby by rangers later in the day. Some coral species exhibit banding in their skeletons resulting from annual variations in their growth rate. On January 8, 2004 a puma killed and partly ate a mountain biker in Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park in Orange County, California; what is assumed to be the same animal attacked another mountain biker in the park the following day, but was fought off by other bikers. Climatic variations, such as El Niño, can cause the temperature changes that destroy corals. Pumas in such circumstances may come to lose their fear of both people and dogs and come to see them as prey.

This has increased the importance of coral biology as a subject of study. Attacks by puma on humans and pets are associated with urban areas situated in the wildland urban intermix such as the Boulder, Colorado area which have encouraged the traditional prey of the puma, the mule deer, to habituate to urban areas and the presence of people and pets. A combination of temperature changes, pollution, and overuse has led to the destruction of many coral reefs around the world. There were around 100 puma attacks on humans in the USA and Canada during the period from 1890 to January 2004, with 16 fatalities; figures for California were 14 attacks and 6 fatalities. 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'. Attacks on humans are rare, but do occur — especially as humans encroach on wildlands and impact the availability of the puma's traditional prey. 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. If a male puma invades the territory of another male, he may kill the kittens of resident females so that they will become receptive to mating.

A coral reef can easily be swamped in algae if there are too many nutrients in the water. Female pumas usually have 3 or 4 kittens in a den in a rocky location. Coral can be sensitive to environmental changes, and as a result are generally protected through environmental laws. A male may breed with several females. 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. Adult males tend to claim a 250 km² (100 mile²) stretch for their territory; adult females take (50 to 150 km² (20 to 60 mile²) on average; however their ranges can vary from as much as 1,000 km² (370 mile²) to as little as 25 km² (10 mile²). 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). Like other cats, they will also move to certain areas for feeding.

These fossil reefs are prime locations to look for fossils of many different types, besides the corals themselves. Pumas will catch and kill their prey 98% of the time, so perhaps they can afford to be a bit choosey. 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. Pumas do not enjoy being scavengers, however, and will generally hunt for their own food and not eat from a carcass. However, these ancient reefs are not composed entirely of corals. The carcass of the kill is usually then buried or partially covered to protect it for several days, while the puma continues to roam and comes back for nourishment as needed. Reefs from both the Silurian and Carboniferous periods have been recorded as far north as Siberia, and as far south as Australia. They usually kill with a bite at the base of the skull to break the neck of their target.

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. They hunt alone and ambush their prey, often from behind. Some of these reefs now lie as great structures in the midst of sedimentary rocks. They normally hunt large mammals, such as deer and elk, but will eat small animals, such as beavers, porcupines or even mice, if the need arises. And like modern corals their fossil ancestors built reefs beneath the ancient seas. Pumas can kill and drag prey about 7 times their own weight. 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. There are no authenticated reports of truly melanistic pumas.

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. Abnormally dark brown pumas with paler bellies have been described, primarily from South and Central America and were described as couguar noire in Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon. The skeletons of Scleractinian corals are composed of a form of calcium carbonate known as aragonite. Abnormally pale and even white (leucistic but not albino) pumas exist. 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. Kittens have irregular blotches of darker brown which can sometimes persist into adolescence but disappear by the time the cat is a year old. Scleractinian corals diversified during the Mesozoic and Cenozoic eras and are at the height of their development today. The normal coloration of the puma is tawny or sandy, mimicking their principal prey, the deer.

The finest details of their skeletal structures are often well preserved, and such fossils may be cut and polished. Pumas that live closest to the equator are the smallest, and increase in size in populations closer to the poles. The Rugose corals may be either solitary or colonial, and like the Tabulate corals their skeletons are also composed of calcite. Their life span is about a decade in the wild and 25 years or more in captivity. Rugose corals became dominant by the middle of the Silurian period, and became extinct early in the Triassic period. Puma kittens have brownish-blackish spots and rings on their tails. The skeletons of Tabulate corals are composed of a form of calcium carbonate known as calcite. Adult females can be 2 m (7 ft) long and have a mass of about 35 kg (weigh approx 75 lb).

Their numbers began to decline during the middle of the Silurian period and they finally became extinct at the end of the Permian period. In exceptional cases males may reach as much as 90 kg. 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. Adult males may be more than eight feet long (nose to tail), and have a mass of about 70 kg (weigh approx 150 lb). 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. Puma claws are retractable and they have four toes. Most other anthozoans would be treated under the common name of "sea anemone". Their bite strength is more powerful than that of any domestic dog.

These two groups went extinct at the end of the Paleozoic. The puma can run as fast as 50 km/h (30 mph), jump 6 m (20 ft) from a standing position, vertically leap 2.5 m (8 ft), and often weigh more than 70 kg (150 lb). Extinct corals include rugose corals and tabulate coral. Pumas are tawny-colored with black-tipped ears and tail. 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). circa 1990) and an estimated 4,500 to 5,000 in Colorado. . There are an estimated 4,000 to 6,000 pumas in California (est.

Indonesia is home to 581 of the world's 793 known coral reef-building coral species. They have also begun preying on pets, such as dogs and cats, and livestock, but have rarely turned to people as a source of food. The most extensive development of extant coral reef is the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Queensland, Australia. Due to urbanization in the urban-wildland interface, pumas often come into contact with people, especially in areas with a large population of deer, their natural prey. 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. There are continuing reports of the survival of a remnant population of the Eastern Cougar in New Brunswick, Ontario, and the Gaspé Peninsula of Quebec. Corals are major contributors to the physical structure of coral reefs that develop only in tropical and subtropical waters. It is anticipated that they will soon expand their range over the entire eastern and southern United States.

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. Pumas have been seen along the northern shore of Lake Superior with an attack on a horse in Ely, Minnesota in 2004. 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. Pumas are gradually extending their range to the east, following creeks and riverbeds, and have reached Missouri and Michigan. 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 densest concentration of pumas in North America is found on Vancouver Island in British Columbia. The hermatypic corals obtain much of their nutrient requirement from symbiotic unicellular algae called zooxanthellae, and so are dependent upon growing in sunlight. In Canada, pumas are found west of the prairies, in Alberta, British Columbia and the southern Yukon.

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. Hunted almost to extinction in the United States, the puma has made a dramatic comeback, with an estimated 30,000 individuals in the western United States. 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. When pumas are found and relocated to more "wild" parts of the state, they are put into competition with already existing cats. A coral "head" is formed of many individual polyps, each polyp only a few millimetres in diameter. This is mostly due to human infringement, clashing with cities and other urban "advancements" or because of the loss of territories that urbanization brings. The latter are also known as stony corals in as much as the living tissue thinly covers a skeleton composed of calcium carbonate. One of the only locations where the puma is in great danger is within the United States, mainly Florida and other parts of the East Coast.

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). Even now, it has the widest range of any New World land animal, spanning 110 degrees of latitude, from the northern Yukon Territory (in Canada) to the southern Andes (on both the Chilean and Argentinian sides). Corals are gastrovascular marine cnidarians (phylum Cnidaria; class Anthozoa) existing as small sea anemone-like polyps, typically forming colonies of many individuals. Before the modern human population explosion in the Americas, the puma ranged across most of the Americas. Pumas have one of the largest ranges of any wild cat, holding competition with only the Eurasian Lynx, Wild Cat and greatly spread Leopard. Hybrids between pumas and jaguars have been reported, but none have been proven.

Hybrids between a puma and an ocelot have also been bred. In spite of not being closely related to the pantherine big cats, hybrids between pumas and leopards have been bred and are called pumapards. Although a controversial move, the hybrids are more vigorous than pure Florida panthers and excessive inbreeding is averted. Hybrids between subspecies of puma have occurred where new blood has been introduced into the Florida panther.

. There is a considerable variation in color and size of these animals across their large range of habitats. The puma is not closely related to other large felines, such as leopards and lions. Recent DNA analysis has established that the puma is supposedly quite closely related to the jaguarundi and North American cheetah (Miracinonyx, now extinct), but not to true cheetahs.

concolor is accepted as having been wholly extirpated by the late 1800's, and where breeding populations have not been documented as re-established by 2005. Such anecdotal accounts are particularly prominent in the Appalachian Mountains of the eastern United States, a region where P. The melanistic gene can be seen in a variety of cats, including the Lion, Tiger, Leopard, Jaguar, Caracal, Jaguarundi, Serval, Ocelot, Margay, Bobcat, Geoffrey's Cat; however, melanism has never been documented in Puma concolor, though urban legends of "black panthers" persist. In South America, panther refers to the jaguar and can refer to either the spotted or black jaguar.

In Europe and Asia, panther means leopard and can refer to either the spotted or black leopard. In North America, particularly the United States, panther by itself refers to a puma, although the term black panther is correctly associated only with the melanistic variants of leopards or jaguars rather than pumas. In fact in the English language the puma has over 40 different names. In Brazil it is known an suçuarana, from the Tupi language, but also has other names.

The word puma comes from the Quechua language. It is also known by the regional names of cougar, mountain lion, panther, catamount, and painted cat. It is more closely related to the common house cat than to the African lion. Though large in size this cat cannot roar, but instead purrs and has even been said to make eerily humanlike screams when courting.

The puma (Puma concolor since 1993, previously Felis concolor) is a type of predator-feline found in North, Central, and South America. Norton, November, 2003, hardcover, 320 pages, ISBN 0393058077. W. David Baron, Beast in the Garden: A Modern Parable of Man and Nature, W.

Do not climb a tree as pumas can climb just as well (if not much better) than humans. Be wary when leaving pets outside, particularly at dawn and dusk. Keep pets from roaming and never feed pets outside. Install motion-sensitive outdoor lighting.

Remove dense and low-lying vegetation that provide good hiding places for pumas. The best place to hit a puma is on the nose. Pumas have been repelled with rocks, sticks, garden tools, kicks, and bare hands; a well placed kick to the face has been known to work. Fight back if attacked.

Do not crouch down or bend over; this may create the appearance of an ordinary quadriped prey rather than a typically non-prey biped. Do everything possible to appear larger or intimidating, including raising arms wildly, opening up jacket, and throwing stones and branches. Pick up young children without bending or turning from the puma (if possible). Instead, stand and face the animal, making eye contact.

If confronted by a puma, do not run; that might stimulate its instinct to chase. Do not hike alone; go in groups with adults supervising children. Andes Puma (Puma concolor araucanus). Argentine Puma (Puma concolor pearsoni).

Chilean Puma (Puma concolor puma). Mato Grosso Cougar (Puma concolor acrocodia). Bolivian Cougar (Puma concolor osgoodi). Incan Cougar (Puma concolor incarum).

Amazon Cougar (Puma concolor discolor). Ecuador Cougar (Puma concolor soderstromi). Colombian Cougar (Puma concolor bangsi). Mayan Cougar (Puma concolor mayensis).

Texas Cougar (Puma concolor stanleyana. Yuma Puma (Puma concolor browni). Kaibab Cougar (Puma concolor kaibabensis). California Cougar (Puma concolor californica).

Vancouver Island Cougar (Puma concolor vancouverensis). Oregon Cougar (Puma concolor oregonensis). Colorado Cougar (Puma concolor hippolestes). Missoula Cougar (Puma concolor missoulensis).

Patagonian Puma (Puma concolor patagonica). Baja Californian Cougar (Puma concolor improcera). Brazilian Cougar (Puma concolor concolor). Costa Rican Cougar (Puma concolor costaricensis).

Mexican Cougar (Puma concolor azteca). Eastern Cougar (Puma concolor cougar). Wisconsin Cougar (Puma concolor shorgeri) (extinct, but numerous sightings have been reported). Florida Panther (Puma concolor coryi).

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