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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Sea Things #14: Orange Cup Coral

Sea Things is a regular feature on my blog where I profile a different sea creature. Look for it weekly, or something close to weekly.

Orange Cup Coral, or Tubastraea coccinea, totally surprised and delighted me the first time I ever really noticed them.  I mean, corals are everywhere, but these are special.  Like many corals, they put out little tentacles at night, but they also just look incredibly beautiful when they do, as compared to how they look in the daytime.

From 2009 Bonaire - Best of Resized
These corals are usually found in shady areas.  I have seen them on wrecks, on dock pilings, and rocks.  They were especially prevalent for us in Bonaire - we saw them under our dock on the last trip and then under Town Pier in 2007.  Sadly, Bonaire had to scrape off the pilings at Town Pier and Salt Pier after Hurricane Omar, when inspection for damage was needed. In the above photo, we found some on the undersides of holes in the reef during our night dive on Klein Bonaire.

Intesteringly, Orange Cup Coral is not native to the Caribbean, but was brought in, presumably on a ship's hull, in 1943.  It's moved in a predictable pattern since, finally ending up in the Northern Gulf of Mexico in 1999.  They're terribly interesting and fun to look at, and they're one of my favorite corals.

From 2009 Bonaire - Best of Resized

Is there a creature that you would like to see featured in Sea Things? If so, shoot me an email and if I can, I'll write about it. Photos on this post are courtesy of Todd Krebs.

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