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Our first coral…

November 12, 2010

Lace Coral

There is a flurry of activity when specimens are brought on board after a research dive. Various scientists collect specimens for their specific research needs and we then document the specimens with digital images back in the lab. Highlights from the first night included a beautiful fan-like stylasterid coral appropriately named a Lace Coral. Lace corals form ornate tree-like structures, with the tapered branches growing in one plane, often with a zig-zag branching pattern.

Lace coral with amphipod

A closer look revealed a small amphipod clinging to one of the branches.

Lace Coral branch

Even closer examination reveals the textures of this remarkable colony – the rough bumps are part of the calcified skeleton and the openings with scalloped edges are the holes (each is called a calyx) where the individual polyps are housed.

Hydroid

The upright tubes in this extreme macro image are hydroids growing on the Madrepora. Hydroids are diverse and abundant and are frequently associated with coral communities. They feed by extending tentacles into the water column. These have withdrawn into their tubes after being brought up from the depths.

Madrepora coral

The salmon-colored coral is a species of Madrepora. Tissue samples were collected for genetic analysis and the skeletons are saved as voucher specimens in museum collections.

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