Coral Reef Ecosystem Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Sarah Meers

Sarah has taught elementary education for 10 years and has a master's degree in Education Leadership.

In this lesson, you will get a chance to explore a coral reef ecosystem. You will learn about the three types of coral reefs as well as the many plants and animals that work together and depend on each other in the oldest, most productive ecosystem on Earth.

What is a Coral Reef?

Imagine putting on a snorkeling mask and flippers and swimming around in the warm water. Fish of many colors swim by you, and you see all different kinds of plants and tiny animals. You are exploring an underwater neighborhood that has been around for more than 200 million years, called a coral reef. Twenty-five percent of all marine life found in the ocean live in coral reefs and depend on each other for survival.

A coral reef is made up of thousands of tiny animals called coral polyps. Some coral polyps are hard, like brain coral and Elkhorn coral, while other corals, like sea fans and carnation coral, are soft. These thousands of animals all live together in a small area. It is kind of like having to share a room with 1,000 brothers or sisters. While that may sound horrible to you, the coral polyps have to live this way to survive.

Each small circle is a coral polyp.
Coral Polyp

Living alongside the coral polyps are tiny plant-like things called algae. These tiny animal polyps and algae have grown together to create a large structure called a coral reef. This coral reef is home for thousands of species of plants and animals.

The colonies of coral grow in warm, tropical waters close to the surface and are usually found near areas with waves. The waves help bring in food, nutrients, and oxygen to support the plants and animals that live in the coral reefs.

Types of Coral Reefs

There are three types of coral reefs. The fringing reef, which grows directly off the shoreline, is the most common type of reef. A barrier reef grows parallel to the shore, but has a lagoon, or wide body of water, between the reef and the shore. Finally, an atoll is a type of reef that grows in a circle around a large, deep lagoon.

An atoll reef
atoll reef

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about Study.com
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account
Support