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Scanning Electron Microscopy of Montipora digitata

By Leonard Ho - Posted Nov 10, 2011 07:00 AM
Ever wonder why Montipora corals are so brittle and easy to frag? Eric Roth took a sample of a Montipora digitata frag (recently lost to RTN) under a scanning electron microscope. His images show the extremely delicate, low-density, and quite beautiful skeletal matrix of Montipora.


Advanced Aquarist thanks Eric W. Roth (Mr. Microscope at for the following content from his thread: "Mr. Microscope's Electron and Light Microscopy of the Reef!."  Acknowledgements to Northwestern University NUANCE Center for the use of their Electron Microscope.


Here is an image of the original frag. I was really sad to lose it since it had such amazing color. The polyps were bright red-orange and the flesh ranged from banana yellow to almost sky blue.


Sample prep on this sample was similar to the Pocillopora sample. Images were acquired on a Hitachi 4800 Field Emission Gun SEM.  The skeleton has some interesting structure:




Here's where a polyp would come from:


And the tip of one of those tines from the polyp area:


I zoomed in a bit on the crystal structure of the skeleton (from about the middle of the above pic):


Here's another area of the skeleton that I zoomed in on. There are some very different structures here:


Check out these spherical features I found. ...who'd of guessed?


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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