The corals of the Mediterranean

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August, 2007

Corals are simple animals and as such, are capable of forming very complex and diverse communities. Contrary to popular belief, simple organisms show the highest capacity for adaptation and mutation, since complex organisms are more specialized and therefore less likely to undergo genetic and physical modifications over a short period of time.

All of them are uniquely marine species which exist in all of the ocean habitats known to us, from shallow water and tide pools to the greatest depths known to support marine life.

Occupying 1.1% of the surface of the world's oceans and 0.3% of all salt water, the Mediterranean no longer shelters the great coral reefs that thrived 60 million yeras ago. This is due to millennia of climactic and oceanographic changes. However, even today this sea harbors a spectacular array of corals, including some which are not found anywhere else.

More than 200 species of coral (from a total of 5,600 species which have been described worldwide, 500 of which are in Europe) live in the Mediterranean. Some of the species living there are endemic, while others have a subtropical origin from the warmer waters of the Atlantic. Still others are more common in arctic zones, while some are found every where.

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