The Red Sea is a rich and diverse ecosystem. More than 1200 species of fish have been recorded in the Red Sea, and around 10% of these are found nowhere else. This also includes 42 species of deepwater fish.
Red Sea coral and marine fish
The rich diversity is in part due to the 2,000 km (1,240 mi) of coral reef extending along its coastline; these fringing reefs are 5000–7000 years old and are largely formed of stony acropora and porites corals. The reefs form platforms and sometimes lagoons along the coast and occasional other features such as cylinders (such as the Blue Hole (Red Sea) at Dahab). These coastal reefs are also visited by pelagic species of Red Sea fish, including some of the 44 species of shark.
The Red Sea also contains many offshore reefs including several true atolls. Many of the unusual offshore reef formations defy classic (i.e., Darwinian) coral reef classification schemes, and are generally attributed to the high levels of tectonic activity that characterize the area.
The special biodiversity of the area is recognized by the Egyptian government, who set up the Ras Mohammed National Park in 1983. The rules and regulations governing this area protect local marine life, which has become a major draw for diving enthusiasts.
Divers and snorkellers should be aware that although most Red Sea species are innocuous, a few are hazardous to humans: see Red Sea species hazardous to humans.
Other marine habitats include sea grass beds, salt pans, mangroves and salt marshes.
A number of volcanic islands rise from the center of the sea. Most are dormant. However, in 2007, Jabal al-Tair island in the Bab el Mandeb strait erupted violently. Two new islands were formed in 2011 and 2013 in the Zubair Archipelago, a small chain of islands owned by Yemen. The first island named Sholan Island emerged in an eruption in December 2011, the second island named Jadid emerged in September 2013
Facts and figures:
Length: ~2,250 km (1,398.1 mi) - 79% of the eastern Red Sea with numerous coastal inlets
Maximum Width: ~ 306–355 km (190–220 mi)– Massawa (Eritrea)
Minimum Width: ~ 26–29 km (16–18 mi)- Bab el Mandeb Strait (Yemen)
Average Width: ~ 280 km (174.0 mi)
Average Depth: ~ 490 m (1,607.6 ft)
Maximum Depth: ~2,211 m (7,253.9 ft)
Surface Area: 438-450 x 102 km2 (16,900–17,400 sq mi)
Volume: 215–251 x 103 km3 (51,600–60,200 cu mi)
Approximately 40% of the Red Sea is quite shallow (under 100 m/330 ft), and about 25% is under 50 m (164 ft) deep.
About 15% of the Red Sea is over 1,000 m (3,300 ft) depth that forms the deep axial trough.
Shelf breaks are marked by coral reefs
Continental slope has an irregular profile (series of steps down to ~500 m or 1,640 ft)
Centre of Red Sea has a narrow trough (~ 1,000 m or 3,281 ft; some deeps may exceed 2,500 m or 8,202 ft)
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