Key West; Key West Fishing - A Sportfishing Guide to Key West and The Florida Keys -


  Coral Reefs

Of all it's habitats, the Coral Reefs are the most colorful. They are built by millions of tiny animals (coral polyps) and plants (coralline algae). Their skeletons are made of calcium carbonate, the main component of limestone. When animals die, their shells become cemented together to form a reef. Thousands of years may be required to form a reef only a few yards thick. The fragile corals grow best with abundant sunshine, stable water temperature, plenty of oxygen, and a good food supply. These conditions are found usually in waters from midtide level down to about 130 feet. The depth at witch they grow is determined by the clarity of the water. Fresh water, silt, or toxic runoff can destroy the reefs. 

Each reef has many kinds of corals often of different colors. They harbor fish in abundance and other sea life: Crabs, Shrimp, Crayfish, Sea Urchins, Starfish, Sea Cucumbers, Sea Fans, Anemones, and marine worms. Some coral-dwelling fish have evolved special feeding mechanisms. Anglefish and Butterflyfish have long snouts and strong teeth to reach into crevices for food. The teeth of the Parrotfish are fused together like a beak to chip off pieces of the coral, which they eat. They swallow the coral, their digestive systems sort out the food, and they pass the fine white sand.

Heavy anchors, careless divers, and fish, Crab, and Lobster traps are dropped into delicate reef communities and are highly destructive. Also, sewage, pollution, and development are three of the biggest threats to Florida's coral reefs.

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