The key difference between coral reef and coral polyps is that coral reef is an underwater ecosystem formed from colonies of coral polyps held together by calcium carbonate, while coral polyps are minuscule organisms related to jellyfish and sea anemones.
There are many aquatic ecosystems that provide life and habitat for many aquatic organisms. In these ecosystems, different types of aquatic organisms live through interactions and compete for food within the ecosystem itself. Coral reefs are popular underwater ecosystems characterized by the presence of coral polyps. They live in colonies and thousands of such colonies are bound together by calcium carbonate to form coral reefs.
1. Overview and Key Difference
2. What is a Coral Reef
3. What are Coral Polyps
4. Similarities – Coral Reef and Coral Polyps
5. Coral Reef vs Coral Polyps in Tabular Form
6. Summary – Coral Reef vs Coral Polyps
What is a Coral Reef?
A coral reef is an underwater ecosystem that consists of millions of coral polyps bound together by calcium carbonate. Corals play a major role in ocean biodiversity management and are even referred to as the rainforests of the sea. There are four types of coral reefs: fringing reef, barrier reef, platform reef, and atoll reef. In a fringing reef, corals are present close and attached to the shore in shallow water. Barrier reefs are present in the deep sea. Platform reefs are present where the seabed rises close enough to the surface of the ocean. Atoll reefs are continuous barrier reefs that extend around a lagoon without a central island. Other types of coral reef variants include apron reef, bank reef, patch reef, ribbon reef, etc.
Coral reefs are estimated to cover 109,800 square meters, which is 0.1 % of the ocean’s surface area. The great barrier reef is the world’s largest reef present across 2600 km of Queensland, Australia.
What are Coral Polyps?
Coral polyps are tiny, soft-bodied organisms related to sea anemones and jellyfish, which give rise to coral reefs. Coral polyps exist in colonies, and many colonies are bound together by calcium carbonate to form coral reefs. Coral polyps are of diverse shapes, and their size ranges from pinhead size up to 30 cm across. The most common shape is cylindrical and elongated at the axis. Polyps connect with other polyps directly or indirectly in the formation of colonies.
Coral polyps do not photosynthesize. In order to fulfill their nutritional requirement, coral polyps have a symbiotic relationship with microscopic algae dinoflagellates. Reproduction of coral polyps occurs by both sexual and asexual reproduction methods. Their sexual reproduction includes both internal and external fertilization. Coral polyps asexually reproduce by the budding method.
What are the Similarities Between Coral Reef and Coral Polyps?
- Coral reefs and polyps are found in the marine environment.
- A coral reef is made up of millions of coral polyps.
- They maintain ocean biodiversity.
- Both are present in a single ecosystem.
- Calcium carbonate is the common binding material of coral reefs and polyps.
- They do not photosynthesize.
What is the Difference Between Coral Reef and Coral Polyps?
A coral reef is an underwater ecosystem made up of millions of coral polyps, while coral polyps are tiny organisms related to sea anemones and jellyfish. Thus, this is the key difference between coral reef and coral polyps. Moreover, coral reefs have different shapes, while coral polyps are mainly cylindrical and elongated.
The below infographic presents the differences between coral reef and coral polyps in tabular form for side-by-side comparison.
Summary – Coral Reef vs Coral Polyps
A coral reef is an underwater ecosystem comprised of thousands to millions of coral polyps. Coral polyps are tiny organisms related to sea anemones and jellyfish. Coral reefs cover 109,800 square meters, which is 0.1 % of the ocean’s surface area. So, this summarizes the difference between coral reef and coral polyps.
1. “Coral Reef at Palmyra Atoll National Wildlife Refuge” By USFWS – Pacific Region (CC BY-NC 2.0) via Flickr
2. “Feathery soft coral polyps at Marsa Shouna, Red Sea, Egypt -SCUBA (6234320771)” By Derek Keats from Johannesburg, South Africa – Feathery soft coral polyps at Marsa Shouna, Red Sea, Egypt #SCUBA (CC BY 2.0) via Commons Wikimedia