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How Fungiid Corals avoid being buried alive [time-laspe video]

By Leonard Ho - Posted Jan 16, 2012 07:00 AM
Many reefkeepers who keep Plate Corals know these corals are able to exhume themselves when they're covered by sand. But the process in which they do this is more complex and interesting than you know.
How Fungiid Corals avoid being buried alive [time-laspe video]

A Herpolitha limax (Plate Coral) raises itself out of sand through pulsed inflation.

faviid2.jpgSedimentation is a real threat for coral reefs.  Nearly all corals are immobile and unable to free themselves when buried under sand, detritus, or whatever else may settle on coral colonies.

A select few corals, however, have developed mechanisms to save themselves from being buried alive.  Fungiid corals (Fungia sp., Cycloseris sp., Herpolitha sp., Lobactis sp., et al.) Walking Corals (Heteropsammia cochlea), and even some Open Brain Corals (Trachyphyllia sp. et al.) possess limited locomotion.  Many reefkeepers have witnessed movement of these corals in their aquariums, but it isn't until recently that science has documented this phenomenon in detail.

The complex method of "escape" temployed by Fungiid corals is truly fascinating.  It's much more than just inflating its tissue like a balloon to rise out of the sand with buoyancy.  These corals actively shed the sediment with a very controlled series of movements.

Researchers from the University of Queensland and Netherlands Centre of Biodiversity Naturalis document specimens of Lobactis scutaria and Herpolitha limax "Plate Corals" freeing themselves from being completely buried.  The corals accomplish this feat through a series of rhythmic inflation and deflation ("pulsed inflation") in addition to mucus entanglement, ciliary action and peristaltic waves.  Through these complex actions, Fungiid corals are able to excavate themselves within hours.

Watch the time-lasped video of a buried Fungiid coral in action below.

The study is published in Springlink/Coral Reefs.

Advanced Aquarist thanks Tim Wijgerde of for the referral.


Author: Leonard Ho
Location: Southern California

I'm a passionate aquarist of over 30 years, a coral reef lover, and the blog editor for Advanced Aquarist. While aquarium gadgets interest me, it's really livestock (especially fish), artistry of aquariums, and "method behind the madness" processes that captivate my attention.


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