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Have you ever played the game 20 Questions? For many, the first question you learn to ask is: “Is it animal, mineral or vegetable?” It is probably a good thing you were never confronted with living coral as a challenge in this game, since the answer to that question would have to be a frustratingly simple, "yes." 

Such is the the world of the coral reef. It is a place of unparalleled complexity and enchantment. Nowhere is this more evident than in the very nature of the coral polyp itself. I think you'll see why the author chose to craft the pages of Chapter 2 the way he did in this book.

In the space below, detail your reactions to the second chapter of "The Enchanted Braid: Coming to Terms with Nature on the Coral Reef" by Osha Gray Davidson. How is this chapter similar to and/or different from from the first? Can you read each of these chapters the same way? What do you feel was the most effective element of this chapter? What did you learn from this reading that supported our face to face classroom discussions? What here extended your learning beyond anything we specifically addressed?

As always, be certain to be text-based in your responses and provide ample detail to back up your claims. Also attached here are a couple of guidelines to help you craft a quality response...

*Image: "Staghorn Coral (Acropora Sp.) Polyps" by David Burton via Creative Commons on Flickr

Tags: closeread, coral, discussion, enchantedbraid, reading

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One small mutualistic relationship has the power to dictate the rest of the ocean.  The ocean which covers 71% of the Earth and provides 99% of living space.  Yet, this relationship barely makes up .2% of the ocean’s bottom.  This mutualistic relationship occurs between coral and zoothanthellae.  This relationship is so tightly interwoven that "the symbionts are virtually inseparable, coexisting in a single unit, the coral polyp, from generation to generation, evolving together other thousands of years." (Davidson 17)  These organisms are interacting with each other for long lasting success.  A success that then will shape the success of the ocean in that providing necessities food, nutrients, and shelter.   This picture below is from Maricopa Community College. and helps show case the difference between the zooxanthellae and the coral. 

  

As we've discussed in class, zooxanthellae live inside the tissues of reef-building corals.  The coral provides the zoox with a safe home and in return the zoox provide the coral with food. Davidson uses a metaphor of “Some baby corals, larvae called planulae, carry zoox within them as they leave the colony, a housewarming present from their parents.” (Davidson 17) The metaphor insinuates how the zoox is in utter importance to the corals by comparing the zoox as a housewarming present.  

This chapter, like chapter one, is trying to allow awareness of the ocean.  Naturally, we as humans are always looking for the next big thing and often over look the little things because... well.. they are “little.”  Yet, what fairness is there in dictating if something is important based upon size?  This mindset of focus on the major “big” things in life and that is all you need is in a way what society has shaped us into thinking.  Our society is fast past and we are constantly going through the motions of our normal daily lives: wake up, go to school/work, do activities, homework, go to bed, and repeat.  In that schedule we don’t bother to think that the ocean provides us with the necessities to complete that day.   This book and life lesson is not meant to condone being busy, however, it is meant to serve as a reminder of the “little” big things in life we tend to skip over.  

The essence of “The Enchanted Braid” is learned in the chapter through an extended metaphor to show the complexity of a simple relationship between coral and zooxanthellae.  This extend metaphor is developed throughout this entire chapter.  It is then summarized when Davidson states “The coral polyp-this diminutive and deceptively simple creature, this enchanted braid of animal, mineral, and vegetable-is responsible for the largest biogenic formation on the plant and the most complex ecosystem in the sea: the coral reef.” (Davidson 18) This is yet again showing how that “little” thing is actually the “big” deal.  This enchanted braid is based upon how organisms unite and interact to reach not only survival, but success. 

In this chapter i felt like i was getting a preview of what Mr.Nash was trying to teach us. I really did like how in the book they have us a hint on how to pronounce zoox. This chapter was more facts to me. It talked about a lot zoothanthellae and what it does. This chapter is really trying to get us, the reader, into how the coral really works and what is so unique about it. where as in the first chapter the author was trying to get up to understand why we need the coral so much. When people would talk about how with out the rain forests there would be no more air well in reality its the coral that supports all of us. The ocean covers 71% of the earth it would only make sense for the coral to be the main provider of air. 

When i started reading the second chapter i figured it would be like the first one but i was wrong. It wasn't like a text book but it some an informal version of one. It has a story behind it but yet it was still full of facts and good information. I could see lots of things that we learned in class with the second chapter. Like about how coral doesn't really have a color but with the zoox living inside it it reflects the color of the zoox. Also as i was reading chapter 2 i was thinking about how if you were to take coral and grind it down and put it with zoox it will react as if the zoox were inside some coral. 

The very last line of this chapter said "...for coral reefs are the very soul of the sea." That's pretty deep. If coral reefs are the soul of the ocean, and they require the zooxanthellae to survive then wouldn't that make the zoox the heart of coral reefs? Because this symbiosis between coral reefs and zoox is incredibly important to the very nature of the sea isn't it only right to label these individual species as "heart and soul?" And the sea truly is dependent on how these two organisms live together. The coral reef controls the chemistry of the entire ocean, it provides shelter for thousands and thousands of marine species, and they even determine the shorelines of islands and continents. The magnitude of the importance of the coral reef is astonishing, and the fact that we are destroying it is even more astonishing. We seem to forget that even something small can make an impact. How big is an oxygen molecule? Yet how important is it that we take in that tiny oxygen molecule? 

 

Compare that to the zooxanthellae and coral reefs. If the coral reefs didn't have the zoox they wouldn't be able to withstand rising temperatures (http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2013/01/a-glimmer-of-hope-for...) or even be able to gain enough nutrients to survive. This chapter really opened up my eyes to how important all of these seemingly small things that occur naturally every single day really are. 

After reading the second chapter of "The Enchanted Braid", it gave me further insight to how vitally important and awesome our coral reefs are and how little attention is paid to them. Corals, like the title of the second chapter suggests, are not simply a "plant" that is found building upon itself along the reefs in our vast oceans, but they are also an animal unlike animals that we tend to think of roaming the earth, a mineral and a vegetable. When scientists were trying to discern where these creatures food source came from, they of course discovered that they do eat other beings -at night by using their tentacles to shoot paralyzing darts into their prey, zooplankton which are microscopic animals that are carried along by the oceans currents) but there is something more to these creatures. Scientists discovered that the primary food source of hard corals lies within them. Inside each polyp lives a microscopic form of algae called zooxanthllae (or zoox). Like other plants, zoox photosynthesize organic compounds from sunlight and then pass along up to 98% of their food to their coral hosts. Without this supply, the coral would die....how spectacular is that!? Imagine if we, as humans, could do that'? Instead of most of the population being obese, we would be energizer bunnies that never stopped being productive! (if only if only...)

This mutualism symbiotic relationship is simply beautiful. The zoox complete the corals (and vice versa). It is a natural occurrence that nature has blessed our oceans with. Not only do the corals need the zooxanthllae to survive, but the zoox also speed up the process by which corals build their stony skeleton, "putting down layer after layer of calcium carbonate". Coral reefs are responsible for half of all calcium sedimentation in the oceans and with factors such as worms, sponges, parrotfish and waves slowly wearing away at them, the speedy process that the zoox aid in allow of the reefs to constantly be growing. In conclusion, the relationship between the corals and the zooxanthllae are "utterly significant" to our ocean life as well as sustaining life on earth.
"The most complex ecosystem in the sea: the coral reef"
I am still very amazed at how much I really did not know about coral reefs. I just always thought they were beautiful In pictures, that was the only place I saw them. As I read this book I honestly want to keep reading. I was glad to have been able to use some background knowledge when he was talking about polyps and symbiosis, those were something I learned in zoology. This chapter is similar in one way I think, that is the normal everyday people don't really get the "big" picture. We don't understand the ocean and the world we live in. This chapter I had to use a lot more background information while I was reading. There are a lot of big words in this book. The way the book says when it is talking about mutualism " but none more intimate than the one that exists between corals and zooxanthellae" it's like survival. They are "virtually inseparable" one cannot survive without another. During class we talked about Symbiosis, bleaching, zooxanthellae, etc. the coral reef provides the zooxanthellae with a home and in return they give them food. Everything related to symbiosis. What extended my learning beyond what the class addressed was how they explained in detail the relationship between coral and zooxanthellae. The book says " without the nutrients supplied by the zoox, the coral would die.....a similar situation occurs in nature when zoox abandon their corals (a little-understood process called bleaching, which occurs under certain stressful situations). The result is the same: the corals starve to death" One cannot live without the other.
"The lessons we learn earliest we learn the best." Just the very first line of this chapter is astonishing its amazing how true that one simple line is. By that first line I could tell that this chapter was going to be a good one full of great information and detail. In my opinion this chapter was some what similar to chapter one. When I'm reading books or magazine or etc.. The one thing I love is detail and imagery. As I read chapter one I could visualize much of what Osha Davidson had to say. In this chapter there was one specific line that I read that had great imagery "what we tend to think of as an individual coral, a large, branchlike structure or a boulder" the reason that this line stuck out to me was because of the simplicity of it and how easy it was to visualize. My favorite part or element of this chapter were the pictures of the Polyp and the Coral distribution map. These elements gave this chapter better understanding and it was just helpful to have these diagrams shown.

While reading this chapter Animal, Mineral, Vegetable.. I had learned a lot about coral reefs. Before reading this chapter I didn't know what "zooxanthella" was, let alone I've never heard of the word. To my understanding zooxanthella is algae that lives on coral. I really enjoyed reading this chapter! I'll end with my favorite line from this chapter "for coral reefs are the very soul of the sea"
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I thought that this chapter was completely different from the last one. In the first chapter the author uses a lot of details. Which make the red as a whole sound amazing. But in this chapter he talks about corals and what they are made up of. It was kind of like reading a textbook but better because he still used interesting facts such as "Estimates of the total area covered by the coral reefs around the world vary widely, from a conservative 88,800 square miles to a high -end figure of 580,000 square miles"(20). And interesting metaphors like "Compared to the vastness of the oceans, coral reefs are mere specks. But they are like specks in the same way that Earth itself is a speck in our solar system: unique, luminous, and alive"(21).

I think that you can't read theses chapters the same way because when you read the first chapter it describes a picture that you can't help get caught up in. But in the second chapter it is more facts and describing what makes up a coral reef and its symbolic relationship with zoox. "There are many examples of mutualism in nature, but none more intimate than the one that exist between corals and zooxanthellae"(17). That is one of the key points that Osha Davidsion talks about. How zooxanthellae are the reason corals can survive and thrive. They give coral food and coral gives they shelter and food. This in my mind was just more explanation of what we have been talking about in class. It explained how zoox and coral are forever intertwined and how coral reefs are important not just for the surrounding area that it is in but the whole ocean.

I really enjoyed the way the author included a contrast of what is small versus what is big in size, but how there is an equality in importance. The mutualistic symbiotic existing between the coral polyps and the zooxanthellae is minuscule and seemingly unimportant because we, as humans, are not able to see the process happening if we were to swim by. However, the importance of this symbiotic process is astronomical. 

After Davidson describes this process of coral and zoox symbiosis, he then describes how the zoox "speeds up the process by which corals build their stony skeleton, putting down layer after layer of calcium carbonate..." This leads him to describe how this performance of the zoox leads to the formation of underwater mountains of limestone that make the pyramids look insignificant. We can see how what we think is irrelevant is truly the opposite, for what the coral does is what the sea becomes. Davidson writes, "The very chemistry of the sea is altered by corals' ability to fix calcium." 

This tiny, minuscule process of symbiosis is a catalyst for greater things, which allows us to question our view of its importance. What we think is insignificant is truly amazing, because although we cannot see it, it is the formation of astronomical formations and worlds under the sea. 

Davidson wrote this chapter in a circle: he began with the symbiotic relationship between coral and zooxanthellae and ended with it. It reflects how the ocean is the same: it begins with coral and ends with coral. "What would the ocean be like without them?" 

In conclusion, Davidson is showing us how small the symbiotic relationship between coral and zoox is small in size, and difficult to see, but the importance of it is astronomical. What is small may be small, but will ultimately lead to bigger things, in this case, the formation of what we know the ocean to be today. 

I found this picture on a website called It's My Ocean and I was just going to upload this picture but the article continued to talk about coral bleaching around the world and I thought it was interesting. The link is http://itsmyocean.org/?p=807 if you want to look at it!

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