The geological record indicates that the ancestors of modern coral reef ecosystems were formed at least 350 million years ago. The coral reefs existing today began growing as early as 50 million years ago. Most established coral reefs are between 5,000 and 10,000 years old. Although size can be a good indicator of the age of a coral reef, it is not a certain indicator. Different species of coral grow at different rates, depending on the water temperature, oxygen level, amount of turbulence, and availability of food around them. Most massive boulder corals are the slowest growing species, adding only between 1/4 to 7/8 inch per year to their length. Branching and Staghorn corals may grow much faster, adding as much as 8 inches to their branches each year.
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