Who are the real builders of the beautiful coral reefs?

Picture of a beautiful coral formation on the ocean floor.

Humans are great builders.

By means of computers and with the help of detailed blueprints, explosives, gigantic earth-moving machines, towering cranes and with craftsmen of all kinds, they erects structures of great size and beauty.

Yet there are builders in the ocean whose efforts in some ways far surpass man’s.

Most striking among the ocean structures are the beautiful coral formations (as the picture above shows).

Hundreds of coral islands and atolls (islands that form a ring around a lagoon) exist, particularly in the Pacific Ocean.

Only in relatively recent years have humans been able to understand, to a degree, just how the building of coral is done.

Coral marine polyps

Picture of coral marine polyps at the bottom of the ocean.

Corals are small animals called polyps (pictured above), most of them only a fraction of an inch in size, though some are as much as a foot (.3 meter) in diameter.

Polyps have cylinder-shaped bodies with a mouth at one end.

The other end attaches to the sea bottom.

Because they take calcium from the seawater they form limestone skeletons.

When they die their skeletons are built upon by others.

Countless billions of polyps have contributed their skeletons to form islands and underwater reefs.

The Great Barrier Reef off the northeast coast of Australia is the largest coral formation in the world—1,250 miles (about 2,000 kilometers) long.

Such reefs can be a danger to ships.

But they can also be a protection in that they provide quiet waters between the reef and the mainland.

An underwater “coral garden” is one of the ocean’s most beautiful sights.

In brilliant shades of red, orange, tan, yellow, purple and green, corals are found in a multitude of patterns.

Some look like branched trees with stars at their tips; some look like leaves, ferns or fans; others look like mushrooms, domes or tiny pipe organs.

A coral garden is a home for many other animals—sea anemones, jellyfish and all kinds of brightly colored fish living in and among their beautiful coral castles.

The underwater coral reefs have been called “perhaps the most complex community in all of nature.”

Professor John D. Isaacs, director of marine life research at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography has this to say about the formation of corals:
From their slowly sinking foundations of ancient volcanic mountains, the creatures of the coral shoals have erected the greatest organic structures that exist. Even the smallest atoll far surpasses any of man’s greatest building feats, and a large atoll structure in actual mass approaches the total of all man’s building that now exists.”
Stop and think for a moment just what that means.