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Stony Coral Origins: Their Evolution and Diversification (Part 2)


Medusa & polyp stages of cnidarians. Credit: Luc Viatour & Peter J. Bryant

 True Jellies & Corals: Phylum Cnidaria
And, finally, we have gotten to the group we are interested in. Within this large and diverse phylum we have many familiar forms: soft corals, stony corals, anemones, box jellies, the “true” jellies, Hydra, hydroids, sea pens, sea whips, sea pansies. Making sense of all this diversity can be a challenge, and before we delve into it, we need to better understand what defines a cnidarian. The name is derived from the Greek cnidos, meaning “stinging nettle”—an apt name for a group associated with its often painful stings. The manner with which it stings is unique in the animal kingdom. Within certain modified neural cells are specialized organelles (nematocysts) under osmotic pressure, capable of deploying a venomous barb when contacted. This feature alone is enough to identify any cnidarian, but also worth mentioning is their radial symmetry and gelatinous matrix (in place of a legitimate middle tissue layer). These last two features are shared with the comb jellies, but this is perhaps best understood as the retention of an ancestral jelly-like condition. To reiterate, these two groups of “jellies” are only distantly related.  MORE

Elos PhosphateHR Water Test Kit

After reviewing the test kits for dKh, Magnesium, Calcium and Nitrates , today I present to you one of the most important aquarium tests – phosphate. Or, more accurately, the Elos PhosphateHR water test kit.MORE

Stony Coral Origins: Their Evolution and Diversification (Part 1)


Credit: H. McDonald & Science

 The evolutionary history of corals is a fascinating subject, recounting one of the oldest lineages of multicellular animal life. This story is full of mistaken identities, uncertain affinities, and exciting, new discoveries. It’s also a tale of extinctions and near-extinctions, and of adaptations and diversifications through the ever changing history of our planet. To begin our journey through coral evolution, let’s go all the way back to the origins of multicellular animals to gain a better perspective of the place of stony corals in the history of life on earth. MORE

Ultrareef UCS 120 – In Depth Review

2014_05_reattore_di_calcio_ultrareef_ucs120_002I’m here today to tell you about the UltraReef UCS 120 Calcium Reactor, recommended for tanks up to 130 gallons, and tested on my 100 gallon reef tank. The reactor is equipped with a solid pump, the Sicce Syncra 1.5, which I tested in the past and found to be a great product (the review). MORE

Coral vendors everywhere!

cycloseris-photoshopAt one time, Deep Creek Lake Maryland, where I live, was a thriving real estate mecca. Being situated close to Washington, DC, northern Virginia and Baltimore, it became a playground and second home for the affluent who had grown tired of the stressful living conditions their urban homes offered. Even though I entered real estate sales late in the game, the market was still booming and housing prices were so high, you only had to sell a handful of lake homes per year to make a comfortable salary. As the housing crisis swept the country, the local market became flooded with inventory and slowly the whole industry came to a halt. As I see the numerous coral vendors popping up everywhere, I wonder if the same thing isn’t happening in the reef aquarium world. The market is flooding and so many vendors exist, it’s getting hard to tell the good guys from the bad. Is this just modernization of the industry, based around the 21st century, ultra-connected marketplace and is it good, or bad for reef aquarists?  MORE

Young Boy Attacked By Shark In Cocoa Beach, Florida

 A ten year old boy was wading in waist high water with his mother in the ever popular tourist spot of Cocoa Beach, Florida, when he was bitten by a shark. Luckily, lifeguards at the Brevard County beach immediately came to the rescue when they saw the boy was struggling in the water. Upon reaching the shore, the lifeguards realized the severity of the injury, the boy had bitten on the calf. The young boy was immediately flown to a trauma hospital in Orlando. It is believed that the shark was a young bull shark. The beach was closed for an hour before reopening. This is the tenth shark attack in Brevard County this year. MORE

International Tensions Increase Over Red Coral Poaching

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As if tensions between regional powers were not hot enough, a new issue of contention has emerged in the South China Sea. Recently, the Japanese government has denied Chinese fishermen shelter from a coming typhoon near the Ogasawara Islands, where Tokyo suspects many of them to be carrying out illegal harvests of red coral. Japanese authorities has asked Beijing to crack down on the poachers, who they say have been active in a Japanese exclusive economic zone (EEZ). It has been suggested that the increased activity stems from heightened security in the East China Sea, where coral hunters have traditionally carried out their past operations. Poachers now favor the waters of the Ogasawaras not only because of the lax security there but also on account of their relatively calm waters. Accordingly, Japanese coastguard and police patrols in the area have increased. The red (or “precious”) coral Corallium spp. occurs mainly on dark, low-sediment sea bottoms. It is known for its very slow rate of growth. MORE

Alien Zooxanthella Invades Caribbean Corals

Figure 3 of Tye et al. 2015, illustrating the relatively reduced rates of photosynthesis and calcification in Orbicella spp. (Formerly Montastraea spp.) infected by S. trenchii.

Figure 3 of Tye et al. 2015, illustrating the relatively reduced rates of photosynthesis and calcification in the Caribbean coral Orbicella spp. (Formerly Montastraea spp.) infected by S. trenchii.

Tye Pettay and Todd LaJeunesse at Pennsylvania State University in University Park and others have published new work that does some unique finger-pointing. The genetic lineages of Symbiodinium trenchii from the Indo-Pacific have opportunistically invaded Caribbean species of symbiotic corals. This invasion is a double edged sword that may simultaneously place Caribbean corals infected “X steps forward and Y steps back”. The S. trenchii zooxanthella, as mentioned above, is an Indo-Pacific species, and it is known for its ability to thrive in coral colonies that live in the margins of their survival ranges. The species is well documented for MORE is the world's leading destination for sustainable coral reef farming and the aquarium hobby. We offer a free open forum and reef related news and data to better educate aquarists and further our goals of sustainable reef management.