Soft Coral (Ellisella sp) in the Great Barrier Reef, Australia
© Gary Bell/Oceanwide/Minden Picture
Under the sea. Diving into the Great Barrier Reef
No, you’re not looking at a microscopic organism, but rather a great Australian landmark – the Great Barrier Reef. Known around the world for its natural beauty, the Reef contains more than 400 variations of coral, of which can be both hard and soft. Hard coral is more widely known, and are the building blocks for reefs thanks to their tougher calcium carbonate skeleton – helping provide support. Soft coral, like the ones you see today, lack a skeleton (making them much more flexible), and are supported by spike-like ‘spicules’ which act as a line of defence against predators. The more flexible nature also makes soft coral more visually akin to underwater flora.While the exact timing and catalyst is still debated, many tourists travel to the reef in time to watch this homegrown wonder multiply each November. Over a handful of nights the Reef is said to ‘explode’ as corals spawn in a mysteriously coordinated event, however it only happens at night once the water temperature is above 26 degrees for the whole month prior.