Good morning friends, here is a very threatened coral called Grooved Brain Coral, Diploria labyrinthiformis that we found at the little pier directly behind the airport in Bonaire. From my own observations as a diver and underwater photographer this specific coral has really taken a beating over the past few years and is becoming harder and harder to find. A few years ago Curacao, Bonaire and the whole Caribbean went through one of the worst seasons of coral bleaching ever and many of these coral colonies did not recover! Like many divers I am still haunted by what the reef was transformed into during this long period of warm Caribbean water which laid waste to so many hard and soft corals. Our reefs here in Curacao are now filled with mound after mound of dead brain corals that never made it through the last bleaching and are a constant reminder of global warming. So now when I find these beautiful colonies of brain corals on any reef I always stop and take a photo, if conditions don’t get better these will disappear and photos will be all that is left. Brain coral includes several varieties of coral that are generally round or oval in shape with grooved or smooth ridges meandering across their surface so that they look much like a brain. Brain corals grow in shallow, warm water in all of the world’s oceans. While brain corals look like colorful ocean-floor plants, they are actually animals. Colonies of polyps secreting a hard skeleton of calcium carbonate create the brain coral, which can live for hundreds of years. Colonies grow to as much as six feet in height. The name applies to corals in the Faviidae family, which are part of the Cnidaria phylum known as “sea flowers.” The appearance of brain coral ridges ranges from flattened to folded to figure-eight shaped. Brain corals live for hundreds of years with reports of some approaching 900 years in age or more. Their skeletons hold a wealth of information for scientists to study. The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts has used cross sections of ancient brain coral to reconstruct 500 years of Atlantic Ocean climate data. Like most corals, brain corals gain nutrition from small marine animals and invertebrates that float by as well as from an algae that grows on the coral. Polyps in the brain coral colonies stretch out from the mound to collect the food floating past them. Brain corals are considered threatened species in many parts of the world because of the increase in pollution from growing beach communities and other sources. Contaminated water can quickly kill brain coral. Threats to coral health also include damage from divers or people fishing and from people collecting coral for use in aquariums or as souvenirs. In 1996, unusually high water temperatures in the Caribbean Sea and disease caused the worst coral death ever recorded, according to news reports from that time. Scientists reported that up to one-third of the coral had died. Have a wonderful day, I will be in the deep-water lab shooting some new creatures that were found on yesterdays adventure, stay-tuned! Barry MORE: Grooved Brain Coral, Giant Colony of Brain Coral
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