The Coral Sea is a marginal sea of the South Pacific off the northeast coast of Australia, and classified as an interim Australian bioregion.
It extends 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi) down the Australian northeast coast. To the south it merges with the Tasman Sea, to the north with the Solomon Sea, and to the east with the Pacific – it is connected to the Arafura Sea (west) via the Torres Strait.
The Coral Sea has an average depth of 2,394 meters (7,854 feet) and the deepest recorded point is 9,140 meters (29,990 feet).
The reefs and islands of the Coral Sea are particularly rich in birds and aquatic life and are a popular tourist destination, both nationally and internationally.
The sea was named for its numerous coral formations, highlighted by the Great Barrier Reef.
The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef system composed of over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands stretching for over 2,300 kilometres (1,400 miles) over an area of
approximately 344,400 square kilometres (133,000 square miles). The Great Barrier Reef can be seen from outer space and is the world’s biggest single structure made by living organisms. It was
declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1981. CNN labelled it one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
With a maximum total length of 0.84 cm (0.33 in), Schindleria brevipinguis, which is native to the Coral Sea, is one of the smallest known fish and vertebrate.
Seventeen species of sea snake, live in the the Coral Sea. The venom of many of these snakes is highly toxic – for example, Aipysurus duboisii is regarded as the world’s most venomous sea snake.
Crown-of-thorns starfish is the major predator of the reefs, as it preys upon coral polyps by climbing onto them, extruding its stomach over them, and releasing digestive enzymes to absorb the liquefied tissue. An individual adult can eat up to 6 square meters 65 square feet of reef per year.
Saltwater crocodiles live in mangrove and salt marshes on the coast.
More than 200 species of birds visit, nest or roost on the islands and reefs.
The Coral Sea basin was formed between 58 million and 48 million years ago when the Queensland continental shelf was uplifted, forming the Great Dividing Range, and continental blocks subsided at the same time.
After the Coral Sea Basin formed, coral reefs began to grow in the Basin, but until about 25 million years ago, northern Queensland was still in temperate waters south of the tropics—too cool to
support coral growth.
The coastal areas of the Coral Sea were populated at least 40,000 years ago by prehistoric people descending through the northern islands. Those Aboriginal tribes have been dispersed and nowadays only about 70 groups live in the area around the Great Barrier Reef.
The sea was the location for the Battle of the Coral Sea, a major confrontation during World War II between the navies of the Empire of Japan, and the United States and Australia. The battle is
historically significant as the first action in which aircraft carriers engaged each other and the first in which the opposing ships neither sighted nor fired directly upon one another.
The sea is characterised by its warm and stable climate, with frequent rains and tropical cyclones.
Economic resources include fisheries and petroleum deposits in the Gulf of Papua.