Coral Animal Facts, Photos Gallery

Water Coral Colonies of the soft coral alcyonium digitatum, or dead man’s fingers, can be found around the coasts of western europe, colonies can grow up to 8 inches [20 cm] in height

Common name: stony corals, soft corals, horny corals, sea pens, sea fans

Class: anthozoa [part], Ehrenberg

Phylum: cnidaria

Number of species: about 5,000

Size: solitary forms up to 20 in [50 cm] in diameter, polyps of colonial forms usually less than 0,2 in [5 mm] in diameter; colonies up to several feet across; entire reefs can extend for miles

Key features: mostly colonial polyps, either soft bodied or overlying a stony skeleton of secreted calcium carbonate; colony may be encrusting or erect making antler, feather, fan, plate, slipper, or boulder shape; colors include vibrant shades of red, purple, orange, green, and blue or brown and black

Habits: sessile [attachad by the substratum]; colonial, but compete aggressively for growing space

Breeding: colonies grow by asexual budding; sexual reproduction involve simultaneous shedding of  gametes into the water; fertilization leads to development of free swimming pianula larvae that disperse and settle to found new colonies elsewhere

Diet: reef-building (hermatypic) corals gain most of their nutrients from symbiotic algae living inside  each polyp; other food, mainly plankton and bacteria, is captured from water by tentacles

Habitat: marine, mostly shallow tropical seas, some specialized corals live in deeper and colder  water

Distribution: worldwide, mainly in the thropics.

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