Friday, November 20, 2009

Brain coral (Platygyra daedalea)

Ever seen a real live brain? Well now you can – just grab a snorkel and dive into one of Sri Lanka’s colourful coral reefs.

Brain corals might have got their name because of the way they look, but they are also clever. Like other corals, they have microscopic algae called zooxanthellae living in their tissues, so small humans can’t see them. The algae make energy through photosynthesis from the sun. Most of this energy is transferred over to the coral – we could say it is the ultimate brain food! In return, the coral protects and shelters the algae. Together they make a great team.

Sri Lanka’s corals are in danger from lots of different threats – here are some of main ones:

Sometimes fishermen use dynamite to catch fish – but dynamite doesn’t just kill fish, it also destroys the reefs. Overfishing and pollution also damages coral.

Snorkelling and diving is a great way to see and learn about our sea life, but you have to be careful. Stepping on a reef can break coral that might have taken more than 50 years to grow! This can be a big problem in areas with lots of tourists.

But the biggest risk to coral is climate change. As the temperature of the world’s oceans change, this causes stress to the coral and it loses its algae. When this happens it is called ‘coral bleaching’ because the coral loses its colour – and in the end the coral usually dies.

What can you do?

1. If you go snorkelling, be careful not to damage the reefs you are exploring

2. Help keep our coastlines free from pollution by always throwing your rubbish into proper bins

3. Last month we looked at some small things you can do to help combat climate change – can you remember what they were? If not, have a look at last months blog post

» Find out how else you can help to protect Sri Lanka's endangered species

Illustration by Aisa Hewatathirana