Black Coral: Many Colors – But Rarely Black

BLACK CORALS ARE PROBABLY BEST KNOWN AS SHINY, JET BLACK JEWELRY. As living coral in their underwater habitats, they’re actually unlikely to be black. So what does black coral look like, actually? They’re most likely to be found in shades of soft reds, greens, yellows and other colors. They’re not stony corals – they grow in complex linear structures resembling trees, bushes or sea fans. The “black” part is the protein-based chitin that comprises the

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Stony, Soft or Gorgonian, They’re All Coral Polyps

WHEN PEOPLE SEE THE WORD “CORAL,” it very likely brings to mind the great mounds of star and brain corals that stand out on the reefs. In fact, “corals” include many organisms beyond the familiar stony formations, all built on similar, tiny, coral polyps. “Coral” itself is a flexible word. It applies to the coral exoskeletons that we see as the visible shells of hard corals, to the polyp animals that live within those exoskeletons

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In Deep Waters, Corals Glow to Grow

CORALS’ ABILITY TO GLOW WITH FLUORESCENT LIGHT has been known for some time. The understanding with shallow water corals has been that fluorescent proteins absorb harmful ultraviolet rays, protecting the zooxanthellae algae that provide them with significant nutrition through photosynthesis (See “Corals’ Colors Are More Than Just Eye Candy”). IN DEEP WATERS, A DIFFERENT STRATEGY Now scientists have found that corals in deep waters, which receive very little solar energy, use different colors for a

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Sea Fans, Rods & Plumes: Thinking Outside the Calyx

NOBODY GOES TO THE TROPICS TO SEE GORGONIANS. The sea fans, sea plumes, sea rods and sea whips that make up Order Gorgonacea are just there, incidental bystanders on the “real” reefs of beautiful, stony corals. Sometimes, they’re in the way. While none of the 500 or so species of fans, plumes, rods or whips can compare to the exquisite beauty that hard corals achieve (although some sea fans make a good effort), they’re part

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The Conch Republic Has Just Banned Coral-Toxic Sunscreens, and So Should You!

THE EVIDENCE IS CLEAR: THE MOST COMMON CHEMICALS FOUND IN SUNSCREENS, OXYBENZONE AND OCTINOXATE, are damaging to coral reefs and contribute to coral bleaching. The city of Key West in Florida has just joined the state of Hawaii in voting to ban the sale of coral-toxic sunscreens. At stake is the health of their fragile reefs and, obviously, their futures as destinations for millions of divers and other tourists. They’d like to see reef-safe sunscreen

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A Newly Discovered Coral Reef on America’s Doorstep

A NEWLY DISCOVERED CORAL REEF off the U.S.’s mid-Atlantic coast  stretches for some 85 miles, dense with stony Lophelia pertusa, a branching deep-sea, cold-water coral. A half-mile below the ocean surface, the “new” reef has “mountains” of coral, according to researchers. It’s situated about 160 miles off Charleston, S.C. DEEP SEARCH – A VOYAGE OF DISCOVERY The newly discovered coral reef was identified by scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other agencies as

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Corals Eating Jellyfish: Who’d Have Thunk It.”

AT FIRST PASS, “CORALS EATING JELLYFISH” SOUNDS LIKE AN OXYMORON. But newly published research confirms that for at least one variety of stony corals, the concept of corals eating jellyfish is indeed a reality. Moreover, these tiny colonial animals appear to work together to capture and devour the much larger jellies. It’s the first described case of “protocooperation” among corals, say the authors of the article published in the journal Ecology. NORMALLY CARNIVORES, ANYWAY Coral polyps

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Orange Cup Corals: Bold, Dramatic, Invasive

 ORANGE CUP CORAL (TUBASTRAEA COCCINEA) HAS ALWAYS BEEN ONE OF MY FAVORITES. I’ve always liked its style – big, bold and dramatic. It’s what it is despite (or because of) the fact that doesn’t have the photosynthetic boost that helps reef-building corals thrive. That still holds. Not mentioned in the I.D. guides is an additional aspect – in the Atlantic/Caribbean/Gulf of Mexico basin, it’s an invasive species from the Pacific. The staff at Flower Garden

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Robust Source Reefs Offer Hope for the Great Barrier Reef

NEWS ABOUT AUSTRALIA’S GREAT BARRIER REEF is usually dire, but a team of scientists studying the reef have found a ray of hope: Some GBR sections are resilient segments that are in position to support regeneration of damaged areas. ROBUST SOURCE REEFS   Far from being a monolith, the GBR is composed of more than 3,800 interconnected reefs. About 100 of them are capable of functioning as “robust source reefs” that can produce coral larvae likely

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Sea Fans, Rods & Plumes: Thinking Outside the Calyx

NOBODY GOES TO THE TROPICS TO SEE GORGONIANS. The sea fans, plumes, rods and whips that make up Order Gorgonacea are just there, incidental bystanders on the “real” reefs of beautiful, stony corals. Sometimes, they’re in the way. While none of the 500 or so species of fans, plumes, rods or whips can compare to the exquisite beauty that hard corals achieve (although some sea fans make a good effort), they’re part of the broad

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