Coral reefs are essentially living rocks and there are 2 main types — hard and soft coral. Each species of coral has its own growth pattern so the coral shapes vary greatly, from mounds, sheets and great tables to fans. The coral is produced by polyps — tiny soft bodied animals that join together to form colourful colonies. Every year the reef expands upwards and outwards and as a master architect the coral can even build coral cays or small islands made entirely of coral.
Coral reefs are home to millions of unusual looking creatures and plant life and are classified among the Earth’s most biologically productive ecosystems, providing food and refuge for these prehistoric animals. It has taken millions of years to create these underwater empires.