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Animals of Cuba: Coral Reefs

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On Exhibit posts

Animals? Yes! While coral reefs may be most famous as a sort of underwater architecture, the structures are formed by communities of tiny organisms called polyps—tentacled invertebrates related to jellyfish and sea anemones. 


Coral reef model shows a variety of coral in different shapes and colors as well as a school of fish and hawksbill turtle swimming by.
© AMNH/R. Mickens

Reef-building corals secrete calcium carbonate, laying down layers and layers of the mineral. Over the course of many generations, these layers build up, creating reefs like those off of Cuba’s coast—Las Jardines de Reina, or the Gardens of the Queen. A portion of this reef, one of the healthiest such sites in the Caribbean, is re-created in the special exhibition ¡Cuba!

To build the latter though, the Museum’s exhibitions team had to work fast. You can get a look behind-the-scenes at their work in the Facebook Live video below!



You don’t have to be a professional to make your own coral, though—you can do it at home, with just a little Play-Doh, pasta, and paint, one of many lessons from OLogy, the Museum's science site for kids. Click on the image below to learn all about Cuba’s amazing coral reefs, and how you can make one of your own, in this pictorial from our Member magazine, Rotunda.


Double page spread from Rotunda Magazine featuring illustrations and text on corals and how to make a model of your own.
Click the image to learn more!
© AMNH/5W Infographics

Learn more about amazing Cuban wildlife in the special exhibition ¡Cuba!, now open to the public and free for Members.

A version of this story originally appeared in the Summer 2016 issue of Rotunda, the Member magazine.