Polymers from Coral Reefs

Coral reefs are one of the best and busiest ecosystems that the earth has. Many types of creatures are found and build their lives around these reefs from the tiniest crustaceans to large creatures such as sharks and turtles which use the reefs as a feeding ground.

The most important part in the building of a coral reef is the symbiotic relationships with zooxanthellae. There are also many natural polymers found within the species that occupy these realms. The most commonly found polymers are protein and cellulose, and cellulose is by far the most abundant.

There are creatures called sea cucumbers, obviously because they look like cucumbers, but are really living animals. They have strong muscles which contain protein.

Protein is a natural polymer, and it looks like this:
protein molecule

Sea cucumbers also have a slime trail that they secret. The slime trail is made up of mucopolysaccharides. To better understand this I will break this word down. Muco means mucus, or in other words----slime. Polysaccharide is a natural polymer, in fact it is the building block for many things. It is also known as a type of sugar.

For more information on polysaccharides click here.

Polysaccharide can be broken down into glucose molecules, which can be found in virtually all of the food we eat!

Another creature that lives around coral reefs and also nudibranch secretes a mucopolysaccharide is a nudibranch. The nudibranch uses this secretion to find prey or possibly attract a mate. They are also known to contain Glucosaminoglycans (GAGS) which is used in medical applications for treating joint, ligament and tendon conditions. Chondroiten, a Glucocaminoglycan substance, is thought to have uses in treating arthritis.

Among the many creatures living within coral reefs are plants. These plants provide photosynthetic operations. This just means that they use sunlight to make oxygen, which has to be really interesting since they are under the water. They also contain cellulose. Cellulose is not the only polymer found in plant cell walls. There are other materials, but they have not been researched completely enough to explain all of their potential uses.

Cellulose looks like this:

This molecule of cellulose closely resembles the molecule of chitin. To get a closer look at these two molecules together click here

The group of organisms called Sea anemones are similar to the jellyfish only these creatures sea anemonedon't move around as much. They mostly stay in one place, such as a coral reef, but they do have the ability to move. Sea anemones, such as Metridium senile have layers of mesoglea which are a source of collagen, a type of protein. Plus their inside core is made up entirely of protein.

If you want to see some more pictures of coral reefs and the creatures who live there click here.

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