Tropical hard ... Staghorn corals

Hard Corals are extremely complex to study. Four major types of hard corals include Staghorn corals, Brain corals, Mushroom corals and Porites corals.

Staghorn corals are easy to recognise having the branching structure. They have warts all over their branches. Staghorn corals are under a lot of pressure from fish feeding on them during the day. That is why they feed at night and do all of their growing at night as well.



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Staghorn corals are the fastest growing of the corals. They are covered with tiny 'warts' over their bodies. Each 'wart' has 6 to 10 sunken corallites within them, each a home for a polyp.. I like to count polyps and do rough calculations. Each 15 centimetre arm on the coral has a few hundred 'warts' on it. Each wart has say ten polyps. We have a few thousand polyps. Estimate how many branches you have. There can be thousands. You now calculate a fwe million polyps on one Staghorn coral. Some dives on Staghorn gardens have hundreds of staghorn corals. We are swimming over billions of tiny polyps, each feeding. You can see the polyps out feeding at night. Each polyp is catching prey. There is a phenomenal amount of productivity in the sea, enough to feed trillions of coral polyps. Chaetodon baronessa is sleeping within the safety of the arms of the corals.
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This plate staghorn coral has been munched by this Crown of Thorns Sea Star. The sea star has an eversible stomach which envelops the coral and digests it. Plate corals are staghorm corals which can grow to well over two metres in diameter. Their large surface area collects sunshine to facilitate the photosynthetic activity of the tiny zooxanthellae growing within each polyp. Many fish find refuge beneath the protection of the branching colony.