Thursday, May 10, 2007

Leathery corals: Fried eggs on the Beach!

Two NAKED facts

Thoughtful question: What does this remind you of? Fried eggs? Surgical gloves?

Corney joke: Don't they look like life from another planet?!

NF#1: Leathery soft corals are a colony of animals. Each animal looks like a very VERY tiny sea anemone with a long body topped with tentacles. The animal is called a polyp. Countless polyps live together in a shared leathery tissue.

Interactive activity: Please don't touch the leathery coral, but let's take a closer look at the surface. Can you see the polyps?

Portions still underwater may have polyps sticking out, and look 'furry'. When exposed to air at low tide, the polyps retract into the leathery tissue. This leaves a smooth surface, with only tiny holes where the polyps are.NF#2: Leathery corals are not softies! Leathery corals are generally not welcomed in a marine tank because they produce substances that stunt or prevent the growth of hard corals nearby. That's why it's probably also best not to touch them.

Too Much Information
Only for the information of Naked Hermit Crabs...

What do they eat?
Some leathery corals harbour inside their bodies, microscopic, single-celled algae (called zooxanthallae). The algae undergo photosynthesis to produce food from sunlight. The food produced is shared with the coral, which in return provides the algae with shelter and minerals.

What are the different kinds of leathery corals?

Leathery corals of the Family Alcyoniidae may have two kinds of polyps.

Autozooids have long stalks with tiny tentacles that emerge from the skin. There are 8 or multiple of 8 tentacles, and the tentacles are feathery.

Siphonozooids don't emerge from the skin and function as water pumps for the colony. They look like bumps on the skin.

The different kinds of leathery corals are distinguished by the kind of polyps they have, not only by the shape of the colony.

Sinularia leathery corals (Sinularia spp.) have only autozooids and do not have siphonozooids. A colony can take on a wide variety of shapes and even the same species may have different forms.Omellete leathery corals (Sacrophyton spp.) have both autozooids with long stalks and siphonozooids. A colony is usually mushroom shaped with a stem or stalk attached to a surface or buried in the sand. The top of the mushroom may be extensively folded so the colony appears flower-like.Lobed leathery corals (Lobophytum spp.) have both autozooids and siphonozooids, but the autozooids have short stalks and often appear as mere tufts of tentacles. A colony is encrusting, that is, the upper surface is the same diameter as the colony base and they do not have a stem or stalk. It may be dish- or bowl-shaped. The colony is thick and generally has lobes, ridges or rib-like structures.

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