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Homes for the Ocean's Homeless: Coral Reef's Unsung Heroes

Updated: Nov 4, 2020

The Lovepost Global, a journal published in New Zealand has this mission: "Love offers a positive answer to the troubles of the planet and to channel more of it is the purpose of The Lovepost." This Post highlights the two stories they have written on Reef Life.

Maddie White, an incredible writer, contacted us about "UnderDogs in Coral Reefs" who need our protection and we sent our coolest reef critters imaginable, like these sponges:

"Ever since Darwin’s early observations of coral reefs, scientists have been perplexed by the mere existence of these vibrant underwater ecosystems. How can one of the world’s most productive and diverse communities prosper in such a nutrient-barren landscape? Sponges, it turns out, are the answer.

The unsung heroes of the reef, marine sponges are among the oldest known multicellular organisms on earth, with fossil records dating back to 580 million years ago. These fascinating animals come in all colours, shapes and sizes, with thousands of different species working in symbiosis with the coral to facilitate a healthy reef. Sponges are filter feeders, pumping water through their bodies to feast on the dissolved organic matter (DOM) released by corals and algae. DOM is the largest source of energy produced on the reef but, in this dissolved state, it is impossible for most reef fauna to ingest. This is where sponges come in. After consuming the DOM, the energy and nutrients the sponge receives are quickly recycled as it sheds its old filter cells. This detritus is then gobbled up by particle-feeding critters such as snails, hermit crabs and marine worms who are, in turn, eaten by the reef’s larger inhabitants, creating a sponge loop that nourishes the entire ecosystem.

The rate at which sponges are able to recycle this DOM is no small feat. It has long been known that bacteria play a similar role, with the microbial loop providing sustenance to higher trophic levels throughout the ocean. But the same amount of water that bacteria filters in 30 days, sponges are able to pump through in an outstanding 30 minutes. The humble sponge also has a rapid cell replacement cycle, with one particular species, the Halisarca caerulea, able to produce new filter cells every five to six hours—the fastest cell turnover rate seen in any multicellular organism. This highly efficient sponge loop stops DOM from being lost to the waters of the open ocean, keeping these resources cycling within the reef ecosystem to produce a thriving community." Maddie White

Crustos Coralline Algae-- The Skeletal System beneath Coral Reefs are plentiful on the Oceanite Mineral Matrices created by Reef Life called: IntelliReefs

"Back on the reef, there lives another very different type of algae; unlike the plant-like structures of turf algae and seaweed, crustose coralline algae (CCA) resemble a pink rock. But don’t be fooled by their unassuming appearance—CCA species are essential players in the formation and maintenance of reef ecosystems. If coral structures are the buildings of these underwater cities then CCA are the base infrastructure; it's the mortar that binds the bricks together, the strong foundation which facilitates the growth of a healthy community. These inconspicuous algae grow in the form of encrusting veneers, cementing together coral substrate to create new sites for colonisation. CCA even chemically prepare these sites for settlement, making their calcified encrustation the most attractive real estate on the reef. The rock-hard cover of these algae also serves to protect the reef from breakdown, reinforcing coral skeletons and forming a shield on wave-exposed crests, which reduces the rapid erosion of underlying substrate." MW

Photos below depict the heavy CCA Growth on IntelliReef's Oceanite Minerals:

Myriad marine animals from crabs to octopus to oysters, live in and among our Oceanite, feeding fish galore, tiny to predator sized! Coral Recruits below:

"These are a few standout members of an incredibly valuable community. Coral reefs are a kaleidoscope of unsung heroes: creatures of all different colours, shapes and sizes fitting together in complex ways to create something spectacular. Unfortunately, human activity and anthropogenic climate change are having a serious impact on these marine ecosystems, destabilising these carefully balanced relationships and leaving many of the ocean's inhabitants without food and shelter. In order to protect coral reefs, we must give these underdogs the attention they deserve and mobilise conservation efforts that safeguard their future. Even our individual actions can have a serious impact—we need to all be conscious consumers, reducing the amount of carbon we emit and choosing sustainably sourced products, treating the reef with reverence and respect when diving or fishing in these environments, participating in beach clean-ups or advocating for reef conservation, and supporting initiatives like Reef Life Restoration, "Gift A Reef Project" providing homes for the ocean's homeless. There is a wonderful world of life beneath the waves, and these strange and colourful creatures need our love, just as much we need them." Maddie White The Love Post

The first story on Reef Life Nanoscience Saving Coral Reefs below:

Reef Life teams who shot these incredible creatures: Photo Credits: The Film Team which traveled to Sint Maarten late January included the massively talented @colleenflanigan Socio-Ecological Artist/ whose "close-ups" revealed diverse marine creatures in our #intellireefs @intellireefs @reeflifefoundation @waittfoundation

@_michellesanders @emchiggins @iankellett_story @ecoblueprojects

January 2020 Ocean Science Documentary funded by The WAITT Foundation

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