The extraordinary Great Barrier reef is one of Australia’s most popular attractions. It is the largest living thing on earth, spanning over 2,300 kilometres, covering roughly 348,000 square kilometres. But how this reef system start from one small section to over 2,900 individual reefs and over 900 islands?
How Do Coral Reefs Form?
Coral reefs are born when the free-swimming larva is released from current coral reefs. The larva float through the water until they come in contact with hard surfaces such as submerged rocks, or edges of islands. As the coral expanses, it takes on one of the three main characteristic structures; fringing, barrier or atoll. The Great Barrier Reef, is, of course, a barrier reef. This type borders along the coast, separated from the neighbouring land mass by a lagoon of open water. more and more spaces filling up alongside the initial reef as the calcium carbonate structures attract more polyps.
The Formation of The Great Barrier Reef
It is an extremely old reef, estimated to date back twenty million years. Due to its age, the reef has continuously changed, with older corals dying and being replaced by newer ones. The current reef is about 6,000 to 8,000 years old, forming after the last ice age began. Although we can assume that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities fished in the reef well before the Europeans discovery. The first documented evidence of humans sighting the Great Barrier reef was in 1768 by the French. This was only a minor sighting compared to James Cook’s finding in 1770.
What has formed within the Great Barrier Reef?
The reef is one of the richest ocean habitats, home to a vast array of marine plants and animals. There are over 1500 different types of fish species, which makes up to about ten percent of the entire world’s fish. Larger marine life also calls this place home, with up to seven types of sea turtles roaming the area, and around thirty species of whales, dolphins, and porpoises. It is a safe oasis for many endangered species, with some only found within this region nowadays. Even land-based animals use this reef as a vital source for their survival. With over 215 species of birds visiting the reef daily to hunt.
How can you see it?
The reef spans along for miles, so there is a number of places to visit. A great bonus for the size of this attraction is, no matter how many tourists visit per day, you will still be able to find a reef that no one else is snorkelling in! Take the boat out and set sail! Stopping off at reef spots filled with tropical fish, colourful coral, and beautiful clear blue waters. It’s safe to say that this won’t be a trip you will forget anytime soon!
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