The Builders of the Oceans – Part I: Coral Architecture from the Tropics to the Poles, from the Shallow to the Deep
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At any scale, corals are live buildings. Their carbonate skeletons constitute three-dimensional frameworks allowing the delicate coral polyp to emerge from the sea bottom and populate vast areas of the ocean. These constructions, reminders of the structural complexity found in the forest, are found everywhere in the Earth’s oceans, from the polar regions to the tropics and from the tidal pools to the dark abyssal plains. They can be found as solitary or in modest aggregations of a few centimeters in size or gargantuan colonies of mythological proportions; when many, they can create the largest nonhuman structures built by organisms. Life and death of the coral “trees” are influenced by the mineral architecture and the presence of bioeroders. Shape and size facilitate or restrict their access to food and light and influence structural strength tested by currents and swells. The role that corals play in the oceans defies any attempt at simplification since it transcends the life span of ...
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