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Symbiosis in the Blue Lagoon, New Caledonia
新喀里多尼亚

Coral reefs are all about symbiosis - the art of living together. When we look at an underwater scene like this one, we tend to focus on the brilliant blue fish Chromis viridis, or the blue Acropora coral, or perhaps the Dasyatis stingray in the sand. We see them all as separate, individual creatures. But they are, even as we watch, a collective being, and owe their very existence to mutually beneficial actions.

The blue demoiselle fish and the blue coral are excellent examples of this.

The blue coral thicket is the crystalized history of the behavior of millions of tiny anemone like creatures that extract calcium carbonate from the sea and secrete intricate skeletal homes - the small nodes you see on the coral branches.

Each branch grows upwards into the sea as the coral polyps bud new examples of themselves and convert the clear sea water into the calcium carbonate skeletal shelters that protect their soft tisues. The branch elongates at about 40 to 70-mm per year depending on the depth and availability of nutrients.

The coral tissue is filled with tiny algae symbionts, called zooxanthellae. These creatures convert sunlight into sugars and oxygen for the corals and facilitate the rapid extraction of calcium carbonate to build the skeleton of the coral branch. In turn, the zooxanthellae are protected by the coral skeleton and supplied with carbon dioxide and nutrients - like phosphates and nitrates (fertilizers) from the corals. Since the carbon dioxide and nitrates and phosphates are waste products for the corals this is an excellent partnership.

Nitrates and phosphates are rare compounds in the clear tropical waters of the Pacific and although the corals could get sufficient energy to survive from the photosynthetic activity of the zooxanthellae, they both would perish without phosphates. So the coral branches extend up into the sea water, allowing the tiny tentacles of the coral polyps to comb the sea for microscopic plants and animals that will supply the needed fertilizers.

These branches also protect swarms of fish. Some of these, like the blue Chromis demoiselle fish, swim up into the sea above the coral thickets and feed on plankton from the sea water. The fish drop their waste products back into the coral thicket in little pellets, rich in phosphates and nitrates. The coral polyps catch these fish droppings and ingest them, providing fertilizers that enhance the growth of the whole coral colony.

Just as the coral branches are a symbiosis of zooxanthellae and coral cells reaching up into the sea, the schools of tiny plankton feeding fish are an extension of this, reaching even further into the sea and bringing the nutrients back to help the entire assembly of creatures to grow larger. Over hundreds of years the coral thickets grow into coral reefs, forming lagoons and passes and islets that together act as one vast living system with myriad symbiotic systems of a wonderful, brilliant, exhilarating complexity.

Copyright: Richard Chesher
Type: Spherical
Resolution: 14296x7148
上传: 01/05/2010
更新: 26/05/2014
观看次数:

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Tags: symbiosis; coral reef; zooxanthellae; new caledonia; coral lagoon; blue lagoon; underwater; diving; snorkeling; dive
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More About 新喀里多尼亚

新喀里多尼亚是离澳大利亚和新西兰最近的南太平洋岛屿。该岛是法国领地且官方语言是法语,尽管如此,其文化却丰富多彩,揉合了美拉尼西亚、欧洲、波利尼西亚、越南、中国、印尼等国的风情。这里有一个多山的大岛,称为大地岛 (Grande Terre),和6个较小的岛屿——洛亚蒂三岛 (Loyalty Islands)、贝莱普群岛 (Belep) 和松树岛 (Isle of Pines)。 整个群岛人口极为稀少,有大片的荒野。这里有数百公里长的徒步小径、随处可见的露营营地、超过42个公园和保护区、清澈透明的河流和莹莹闪光的瀑布。约三分之一的人口居住在首府努美阿。镍的开采是该国最主要的工业,也是维持其高标准生活的主要经济来源。大地岛四周环绕着世界第二大珊瑚礁,此珊瑚礁形成的泻湖是世界上最大的,也是受保护的泻湖。该泻湖于2008年被列为世界遗产,面积达24000平方公里,是品种丰富的鱼类和无脊椎动物栖息之地。 对于刚上岛的游客而言,最引人注目的是这里鲜艳夺目的色彩。努美阿以其完备的酒店、度假酒店、餐馆设施和丰富多彩的活动欢迎游客的到来。