The polyps belong to a group of animals known as Cnidaria, which also includes sea anemones and jellyfish.
Unlike sea anemones, corals secrete hard carbonate exoskeletons which support and protect the coral polyps.
Coral reefs deliver ecosystem services to tourism, fisheries and shoreline protection.
The vast majority of these islands are volcanic in origin.
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Coral reefs are diverse underwater ecosystems held together by calcium carbonate structures secreted by corals.
Like sea level rise, a rapidly subsiding bottom can overwhelm coral growth, killing the coral polyps and the reef, due to what is called coral drowning.
The two main variables determining the geomorphology, or shape, of coral reefs are the nature of the underlying substrate on which they rest, and the history of the change in sea level relative to that substrate.