While dolphins themselves do not spend a significant amount of time at the reef, coral is vitally important to all marine species, and could even be important for the survival of terrestrial species.
It is estimated that 25% of marine species can be found in coral reefs, this makes them the most biodiverse ecosystem on the planet, but how does this impact dolphins if they do not live there?
Reefs allow for many marine species to raise their young in a semi-protected environment. Think back to primary science when you learned about food chains, there is a delicate balance that needs to be maintained between predators and prey. While eating a nice baby fish may be easy, there will not be a lot of food. Dolphins being a marine mammal that needs to surface to breath spend a lot of energy swimming, which means that they need to eat a lot. Having healthy reef systems means that dolphins are able to have an adequeate food supply in order to help them maintain their energy levels. Teaching your child science at home? Check out this simple food chain activity to explain the predator and prey relationship. Not only do coral reefs offer protection, but they act as home to many primary producers in the food chain like phytoplankton which allows for the sunlight to become food!
Coral reefs act as natural ocean filters which increases the water quality. This means that it takes a lot of carbon dioxide out of the water, which is unfortunately harming the reefs as well. In acting as a filter, the reef improves the water for all of the animals which inhabit them and those nearby. Poor water quality, where the balance of nutrients and minerals is upset in any or all areas may harm many of the species living on and around the coral reef, including fish species that dolphins eat. Poor water quality may affect the overall reproduction of the fish calling the reef home, which would upset the delicate predator and prey relationship.
Perhaps one of the most incredible and still to be explored aspects of coral reef are the medicinal properties. As coral are stationary animals, they have developed chemical defences over the years, and now we are just learning the impact that this could have on the treatment of cancer, Alzheimer’s, and perhaps even helping find sustainable pesticides and cleaning products. Dolphins in the Red Sea appear to use gorgonian coral to treat infection. Read more about it from the marine biologist that observed the behaviour whilst filming Blue Planet II.
Want to know more about the importance of coral? Why not attend the Coral Conservation Virtual Speciality this Saturday, or email if you or your child wants to set up a virtual lesson of your own.
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