With 75% of the world’s coral species, the Great Barrier Reef is a must-see while in Cairns. Many backpackers depart on tours from Cairns to dive or scuba among the rainbow of colors beneath the water. Here are some of the types of Great Barrier Reef coral types you’ll encounter so you can impress your fellow backpackers with some facts.
First off, according to Australian Geographic, “A reef begins when a polyp attaches to a rock on the seabed and divides into clones. These connect, creating a colony that functions as a single organism.” Easy enough to understand, right?
Now, there are two types of corals you’ll encounter on your trip. The first are Hard Corals, that use calcium carbonate as a skeleton for support and protection. The second type are Soft Corals, that lack a skeleton and are much more flexible. Here are a few examples of both types:
The Fan Coral is a type of soft coral and has a plant-like resemblance. They come in a variety of colours and structures depending on the environment. For example, the temperature and water current determines the length and rigidity of the coral. Some types animals, such as fish, eat these corals, despite the poisonous chemicals some of them produce.
The Cauliflower Coral is typically found in shallow areas and is characterized by hard “branches” reaching out in many directions and covered in little bumps. You can find this coral in a number of colours, including brown and pink.
Just like the antlers of a deer, this coral branches out in long twig-like shapes ranging from a few centimeters to several feet in length. As the fastest growing coral, it’s crucial for sustaining the reef ecosystem. Fish love to use this type of coral for protection by hiding within the branches.
Table Coral is characterized by a branching structure that grows in flat sheets in order to maximize the surface that is exposed to the sun. These are typically brown or green in colour and provide shade for fish seeking protection from harmful UV rays, like an umbrella.
It’s easy to see how this coral gets its name with spiraling grooves spanning across a sphere-like structure. This coral is pretty impressive with a lifespan of up to 900 years! They also have tentacles that they extend at night to catch food, or even sting other corals.
Put your knowledge to the test and book a Great Barrier Reef tour by contacting Tropic Days!