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Great Barrier Reef
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  Great Barrier Reef - Where Do Reefs Occur

Aerial Picture of a coral reef

Reefs. Where they occur

All similar yet all very different, most reefs fall into three categories:

1. fringing reefs, which occur around the edges of the continental islands that were once a part of the mainland.

2. ribbon or outer, barrier reefs which grow on the edge of the continental shelf.

3. platform or patch reefs, which support a cay, or island formed by sedimentary debris swept onto the reef.

One of the major reasons the reef holds such a fascination for scientists and tourist alike is its infinite variety. Some reefs are a little more than a few thousand metres in area while others could be spread over 120 square kilometres. Shapes vary from round, oblong, crescent and indescribable. Some of the very outer reefs are up to 25 kilometres long. At low tide some of the reefs expose themselves while others remain fully submerged. An aerial fly over is a must to appreciate the full extent of the reef.

About 2800 species of fish are known to live in the reef region. Of the 500 or so species of reef building corals found throughout the Indian and Pacific Oceans, about 350 are known to be on the Barrier Reef. It could be decades before scientists have a complete list of all the plants and animals found on any one reef. Many species are still to be identified and named. This clearly shows a staggering diversity of life.

Coral Picture

Information Sources: Australian Marine Life, by G.J.Edgar
Steve Parish: Amazing Facts about Australian Marine Life Encyclopedia Britannica and