Corals, or “Anthozoans,” are marine animals that are known for their colonial, reef-building characteristics. The colonies are formed by asexual, genetically identical polyps, of which create their own exoskeletons that grow over time, thus enlarging the reefs they create. Non-asexual corals will breed by releasing gametes in hopes of reaching the opposite sex of the species. The largest reef known is the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia. Its 1,800 miles of reef makes it the only living organism that can be seen from space. Coral species either feed by predation (on fish and plankton) from use of venomous tentacles, or by receiving nutrients via a symbiotic relationship with photosynthetic algae that live within them. In return, the algae will consume the coral’s expelled carbon dioxide and nitrogen. The first corals known appeared in the Cambrian period, approximately 542 million years ago. Like the corals of today, they were immense reef builders, and are abundantly known in sedimentary rocks.
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