Mesoamerican Reef

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The Mesoamerican Reef was formed over the last 225 million years and extends from Isla Contoy on the north of the Yucatan Peninsula to the Bay Islands of Honduras. It is second longest barrier reef in the world and unique in the Western hemisphere due to its length, composition of reef types, and diverse assemblage of corals and related species. It hosts more than 65 species of stony coral, 350 species of mollusk and more than 500 species of fish, including the mammoth whale shark—the largest fish in the world. Compared to many parts of the Caribbean, the Mesoamerican Reef remains relatively intact. It is closely linked to coastal wetlands, lagoons, sea grass beds, and mangrove islands. This massive structure provides an important defense against storms and coastal erosion, while providing a wide range of marine ecosystems and habitats, from oceanic atolls outside the Barrier Reef, to extensive bays, lagoons and estuaries near shore. Within the coral reefs, seagrass beds, mangroves of the Mesoamerican Reef are many threatened species including the West Indian Manatee (Trichechus manatus), the American Saltwater Crocodile (Crocodylus acutus), the Nassau Grouper (Epinephelus striatus) and Queen Conch (Strombus gigas).
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