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Monday, February 9, 2009

Australia’s Natural Wonder

The Great Barrier Reef, which can be seen from outer space, is the world's largest coral reef system and is composed of approximately 3,000 individual reefs, 900 islands and stretches for 1,616 miles (2,600km) over an area of approximately 132,974 square miles (344,400 sq km). Located in the Coral Sea, off the coast of Queensland in northeast Australia, the reef is the world's biggest single structure made by living organisms. Billions of tiny organisms, known as coral polyps build the reef, bit by bit, and the reef supports a wide diversity of life. Truly, one of the world’s greatest natural wonders, a large part is protected as a Marine Park. 30 species of whales, dolphins, and porpoises inhabit the reef area. 6 species of sea turtles come to the reef to breed. 15 species of sea grass attract the dugongs and turtles. Saltwater crocodiles live in the mangrove and salt marshes on the coast near the reef. About125 species of shark, stingray, skates or chimera live on the reef and close to 5,000 species of mollusks have been recorded on the reef. 49 species of pipefish and 9 species of seahorse have been recorded and at least 7 species of frog can be found on the islands. More than 200 species of birds (including 40 species of water birds) live on the reef's islands. The islands support 2,195 known plant species, many spread from area to area by the birds. 17 species of sea snake live on the Great Barrier Reef. More than 1,500 species of fish live on the reef, 49 of them are known to mass spawn, with 84 other species spawning elsewhere in their range. 400 species of corals, both hard and soft are found on the reef and 500 hundred species of marine algae or seaweed live on the reef.

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