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
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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