Millepora alcicornisFire coral

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Geographic Range

Tropical/Subtropical Caribbean Sea

Habitat

Live attached to rocks and dead coral on reefs in colonies spread over an area of to several meters.

  • Aquatic Biomes
  • reef

Physical Description

Reproduction

Reproduce sexually; a fertilized egg develops into a small mobile larva covered with motile hairs (cilia); larvae generally planktonic.

  • Parental Investment
  • no parental involvement

Behavior

Found in fixed colonies connected to one another by tubular extensions of the body cavity; create a calcareous skeleton.

Food Habits

Paralyse prey with nematocysts (stinging cells) , then draw into mouth opening.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

The fire coral have no specific positive economic importance, but their habitat of tropical coral reefs are a very valuable economic resource. The reefs provide a rich fishery, which can be managed sustainably to provide a consistent source of food and revenue. Also, tourism, mostly via SCUBA divers, is very profitable due to the beauty and diversity of the reefs.

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Fire coral have no negative economic importance, although their sting can be very painful to humans.

Conservation Status

This species of fire coral lives on the coral reefs of the Caribbean, one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems on the planet. While the fire coral are in no particular danger, the entire habitat is very sensitive to human destruction, over-fishing, and bleaching.

Other Comments

The presence of fire coral may be a blessing to the endangered coral reefs of the Caribbean. Because the fire coral cause a painful sting in humans, many divers are very cautious about touching the reefs or inadvertently crashing into them. Such contact is very harmful to the true corals that make up the reefs, as many reefs are dying from excessive human impact.

Contributors

Noah Hall (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Glossary

Atlantic Ocean

the body of water between Africa, Europe, the southern ocean (above 60 degrees south latitude), and the western hemisphere. It is the second largest ocean in the world after the Pacific Ocean.

World Map

ectothermic

animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

radial symmetry

a form of body symmetry in which the parts of an animal are arranged concentrically around a central oral/aboral axis and more than one imaginary plane through this axis results in halves that are mirror-images of each other. Examples are cnidarians (Phylum Cnidaria, jellyfish, anemones, and corals).

reef

structure produced by the calcium carbonate skeletons of coral polyps (Class Anthozoa). Coral reefs are found in warm, shallow oceans with low nutrient availability. They form the basis for rich communities of other invertebrates, plants, fish, and protists. The polyps live only on the reef surface. Because they depend on symbiotic photosynthetic algae, zooxanthellae, they cannot live where light does not penetrate.

References

George, John David and Jennifer J. George. Marine Life: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Invertebrates in the Sea. New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1979. Pg. 18-21.