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Coral reef enclosing a lagoon. Atolls consist of ribbons of reef that may not be circular but that are closed shapes, sometimes miles across, around a lagoon that may be 160 ft (50 m) deep or more. Most of the reef itself is usually below the water surface; around the rim along the top are usually low, flat islands or more continuous strips of low, flat land.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on atoll, visit Britannica.com.