How was the Great Barrier Reef formed?

How was the Great Barrier Reef formed?

Written by: Cameron Ward

Published: 02/21/2019

Reading time: 2 mins

Everyone knows about the famous Great Barrier Reef, but few truly understand its immense beauty until they see it in person.

Coral Reef

Spanning an incredible 348, 000 square kilometres, it is listed as the largest living thing on the entire planet. Home to one of the biggest biodiverse areas on the entire planet. But how did this spectacular reef even begin?

How Coral Reefs are created

Coral reefs form when pre-existing reefs release a burst of larva into the water. The larva will drift until they hit a hard surface such as submerged rocks, or edges of islands. As the coral develops, it takes the form of one of the three main reef structures; fringing, barrier or atoll. The Great Barrier Reef is a barrier reef, which borders along the coast, separated from Australia by a lagoon of open water.

The Beginning of the Great Barrier Reef

Great Barrier Reef View from Top

This reef is around 20 million years old, slowly developing into the largest reef system in existence. Due to its old age, the current reef is not the same as the original one, as sections continuously die and are replaced. This means the actual age of the current reef is only about 6,000 to 8,000 years old.

The Importance of the Reef

The reef is one of the richest ocean habitats known to man as it is home to a vast array of marine plants and animals. Each coral section provides protection for smaller creatures, with other animals using the reef as their food source, whether it be the reef’s animal residents or plant life. Without this reef, it will dislocate millions of animals, leaving thousands of them without protection or food. Even land-based animals use this reef as a vital source for their survival. A large chunk of our biodiversity would eventually die out without this spectacular reef existing.

How can you see it?

Simply hop on a boat and cruise out to the deep sea! Either swim, snorkel, or scuba dive underwater, discovering the brilliant colours and unique wildlife within. This eye-opening experience is a must-do activity while down under.

Related article: What is the best time to visit the Great Barrier Reef?

Cameron Ward
Cameron Ward
Managing Director at Sightseeing Tours Australia

Cameron Ward turned his travel passion into a thriving Australian tourism business. Before he co-founded his own business, Sightseeing Tours Australia, he was enjoying being a Melbourne tour guide. Even now, Cameron delights in helping visitors from all around the world get the most out of their incredible Australian trip. You’ll see Cameron leading tours or writing about his favourite Australian places where he shares his local insights.