Coral is colorful and multi-textured, with many nooks and crannies for fish to find refuge in and other plants to adhere to for survival. The coral reef is a living community full of plants and animals. Even though it may look like a plant, coral is really an animal that lives off the very plants and animals that live within it. Coral is home to several different types of plant life to support its ecosystem.
Algae are the most common plant found in coral reefs. It provides food for hundreds of small ocean organisms, which in turn feed larger species. The most common types of algae are coralline and calcareous algae. Coralline algae spread across a surface in a fine, interlocking web. It is moss-like in structure. Calcareous algae grow upright in a typical plant fashion.
A close cousin to algae is seaweed. Most is edible and gives nourishment as well as shelter to local species. Although, some species are poisonous and survive consumption, others are very helpful to both sea and land life. Seaweed does not sound too appetizing, but many people eat it quite often. Seaweed ingredients are used in many common household foods such as ice cream, pudding and salad dressings. Even some cosmetics and printer ink have elements from seaweed in them.
Every neighborhood needs pretty grass, and a coral reef is no exception. But the seagrass in a coral reef does much more than just add ornamental appeal. It is a food source. There are more than 60 varieties of sea grass in the world's coral reefs. In the Caribbean, the most common seagrasses include turtle grass, shoal grass and manatee grass. They vary in size and give home to small animals like conch and lobsters. Seagrass acts a lot like the grass common to lawns. It forms rhizomes that interlock, branch, vine and thatch, making thick layers. Some seagrass beds are so big they can be seen in pictures from space shuttle voyages or satellites. Along with food and shelter for species that live in coral reefs, the seagrass patches also provide the same service as grass on land--they prevent erosion.
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