Cuba's Coral Reef

We cross the coral reef surrounding the coasts of Cuba and discovered a magical world created millions of years ago.

Planet Doc

A small factory of life floats in the immensity of the Cuban sea. Loaded with the power of its photosynthetic pigments, this mangrove seed faces a long journey across the Great Blue, crossing entire oceans in its quest to conquer new lands in which to sow the seeds of life. 
Our story begins with this small, fertile traveller and its arrival in the Cuban archipelago: a land of still undiscovered nature, eclipsed by the beauty of its coral sea. 

Like this one, other mangroves too came from distant lands and created a fascinating, little-known world; a jungle half above ground half beneath water; an impenetrable maze where countless animals find refuge: the mangrove forest. 
Inside this strange world life survives between extremes. There are excesses of salt, of humidity and of heat; and every day it goes from droughts to floods, dictated by the tides. The fauna that has colonised it has had to overcome countless obstacles and that has made it very much like the mangrove kingdom itself: just as rich, as unknown, and as dangerous.   

In this impassable world, a surprise lurks around every corner, every animal is an enigma and every shadow a potential danger. This complex labyrinth is the legacy of that intrepid seed which came across the immensity of the ocean; a fascinating paradise where life has remained untouched by man. 

A coral world surrounds the Cuban archipelago.
Enormous coral structures, the result of thousands of years of patient calcareous construction, constitute the reefs which fill the coasts of Cuba with life. 

It is not a sea rich in nutrients.  But, protected by the corals, life multiplies in an explosion of biodiversity. 
The coral reef is composed of millions of tiny filtering polyps capable of turning the solar energy and the scarce nutrients in the water into organic matter available for other organisms in the coral community. Starting with them, the chain becomes increasingly complex, and thousand of different life forms develop, from the fragile invertebrates to the most highly-evolved, complex fish. 

The tiny coral polyps join forces with the microscopic photosynthetic algae which enable them to generate their external skeletons of calcium carbonate. When the polyps die, their skeletons remain and on them settle millions of new polyps creating layer upon layer and so, over countless generations, the coral reef is slowly constructed. 
In this calcareous world each one occupies its own particular niche and its role affects the rest of the community. It is not easy to find food in the world of the reef and the only way to survive is to specialise. 

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