Corals v Sponges (What are Corals)

coral s sponges

Corals and sponges are two different types of marine invertebrates that belong to different species. Corals belong to the Cnidaria phylum, whereas sponges belong to the Porifera phylum. As both reside in marine life, many of you cannot differentiate between corals and sponges. However, many of the corals and sponges possess beautiful colors and unusual shapes. Instead of many similarities, they differ from each other in many areas. Let us see how these marine organisms differ and compare them.

What Do Corals Look Like?

Corals are beast belongs to a large group of colorful and fascinating animals. They have a set of tentacles surround a central mouth opening. An exoskeleton is excreted near the base. These marine creatures grow heads by asexual reproduction of polyps. They lack a brain but have a simple nervous system called a nerve net. The net extends from the mouth to the tentacles. 

Where Do Corals Live?

Various species of corals are found all the oceans of the world, ranging from the tropics to the Polar Regions. Corals habitat in tropical and subtropical water bodies. They generally reside in shallow, coastal water on a depth of 200 feet. 

How Many Species of Corals are There?

Around 9,000 species of corals can be found in all the world’s water bodies.

What is the Size of the Corals?

Coral polyps within a reef are typically tiny, generally less than half an inch in diameter. However, the most massive polyps are found in mushroom corals that can be more than 5 inches. But because corals are colonies, the size of a settlement can be much more significant. 

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What do Corals Eat?

Most corals require sunlight to grow in clear, shallow water, generally at a depth less than 200 feet. Other corals do not depend on sunlight or zooxanthellae and can live in much deeper water, with the cold water surviving as deep as 10,800 feet. Some of the corals can catch small fish and plankton using stinging cells on their tentacles. 

Corals Reproduction: (About Corals)

Corals have multiple reproductive strategies- they can be male or female or both and can also reproduce sexually or asexually. Asexual reproduction is necessary for increasing the size of their colonies, and sexual reproduction increases genetic diversity and starts new territories. 

Asexual Reproduction-

The asexual reproduction results in duplicate of polyps or colonies- this can develop through budding or fragmentation. Budding happens when a coral polyp reaches a specific size and divides, producing a genetically identical new polyp. Corals do this throughout their life. However, sometimes a part of the colony breaks off and forms new territory; this is known as fragmentation, which can occur as a result of disturbance such as a storm or being hit by fishing equipment. 

Sexual Reproduction-

In sexual reproduction, eggs are generally fertilized by sperm from another colony and developed into a larva. There are two different types of sexual reproduction in corals- external and internal. Depending on the species and varieties of fertilization, the larvae settle on a substrate and become polyps after a few days or weeks. However, some can resolve within a few hours.  

Facts About Corals:

  • Corals live in colonies of many similar individual polyps. 
  • Each polyp is an animal typically only a few millimeters in diameter and a few centimeters in length. 
  • The giant polyp grows to a diameter of about 10 inches.
  • Polyps can observe certain substances, such as sugars and amino acids. Their sense is similar to our senses of smell and taste, enables corals to catch prey.
  • The term coral is also applied to those animals’ skeletons, particularly to those of the stone-like corals.
  • Corals live in a relationship with the marine algae called Zooxanthellae. 
  • The algae produce energy through photosynthesis, which the coral used to create its skeleton.
  • Most of the coral’s polyps have transparent bodies; their skeletons are white like human bones. 
  • The colors and forms of the coral organisms and coral structures are a source of beauty.
  • Coral reefs are the most significant structures on earth of biological origin. 
  • Corals colors give it appeal for necklaces and other jewelry.

What are Coral Reef? 

Coral polyps build coral reefs as they emit layers of calcium carbonate below their bodies. The corals expand, reefs take on one of the three primary characteristics: barrier or atoll, fringing. 

Soft corals do not produce reefs-they are flexible organisms that sometimes resemble plants or trees. Soft corals do not have a stony skeleton. They can be seen in both tropical seas and in colder, darker parts of the ocean.

The Great Barrier Reef is a largest coral reef situated in Australia. It is made up of 900 smaller reefs. The Great Barrier Reef can be observed from outer space. 

It takes a lot of time for the tiny coral polyps to form an entire reef. With growth rates of 0.1 to 0.7 inches per year for massive corals and up to 4 inches per year for branching corals, it can take up to 10,000 years for a coral reef to create. Each coral colony has a smaller lifespan of hundreds of years. Coral reefs have also called the rainforest of the sea. 

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Are Corals Endangered?

Under the Endangered Species Act, coral species had classified as threatened, and three had listed as endangered. The primary threat to these marine invertebrates is climate change, pollution, and impacts from untenable fishing.

What do Sponges Look Like?

Sponges include a wide variety of colors, shapes, and sizes. Some, like the liver sponge, look like low-lying crusts on a rock, while others can be taller than humans. Some sponges in the form of masses branched, and some look like tall vases. Sponges have relatively simple multi-celled animals. They do not have tissue or organs like some animals do; instead, they have specialized cells to perform necessary functions. The skeleton of a sponge have made of silica or calcium carbonate, and spongin (a protein supporting the spicules). Sponges don’t have a nervous system and they do not move when touched. 

Where do Sponges Live?

Sponges have seen on the ocean floor or attached to a substrate such as rocks, coral, shells, and marine organisms. Their range extends from shallow areas to coral reefs to the deep sea. They have seen in oceans and freshwater lakes throughout the world. 

How Many Species of Sponges are There?

There are many sponges’ species that had divided into five classes-

  • Calcareous sponges
  • Horny sponges 
  • Glass sponges
  • Encrusting sponges
  • Porifera Incertae Sedis

What is the Size of the Sponges?

The sponges’ size varies from under a half-inch to 11 feet in length and weighs around 20 pounds. There are more than 6000 formally described sponges, and the most massive sponge discovered had found in Hawaii in 2015. 

What do Sponges Eat?

Most of the sponges feed on bacteria and organic matter by drawing water through pores called Ostia, which are openings through which water enters the body. Most sponges also eat small organisms that come in with water. Few species of these marine invertebrates are carnivorous that feed by using their spicules to capture prey, such as small crustaceans. 

Sponge Reproduction:

Like corals, the sponge also reproduces both sexually and asexually. Sexual reproduction happens through the production of eggs and sperm. In some species, these eggs are from the same individual, while in others, separate individuals produce eggs and sperm. Fertilization happens when the eggs had brought into the sponge by the water currents. A larva gets developed and settles on a substrate where it gets attached throughout its life.

Asexual reproduction happens by budding, which occurs when a part of the sponge is broken off, and then a small piece grows in a new sponge. 

Facts About Sponges:

People use a number of sponge species for a variety of uses. Humans have also used sponge as padding, water filters, ceramic glaze, and more. Sponges remain in one place throughout their life. The intake water through many pores across their bodies and filter food particles out of it. Other than this behavior and reproduction, they do not have any other action. 

How Long do Sponges Live?

The average lifespan of sponges is around 2,300 years.

Are Sponges Endangered?

According to the IUCN, the sponges had described as the least concern. In general, sponges are not a delicacy to most of the marine animals. Because they can contain toxins, and their spicule structure probably doesn’t make them very easy to digest. Two organisms that eat sponges are hawksbill sea turtle and nudibranchs. 

Corals vs Sponges: Fight Comparison

Sponges and coral reefs are an essential part of the ecosystem. The new research had found that if the balance gets disturbed, sponges could break and destroy the reef in the long run. However, coral reefs are also an extremely competitive environment. 

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