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When is a Toadstool Coral not a Toadstool Coral?

"Sarcophyton" ehrenbergi, the False Toadstool Coral. Credit: Dr. Yehuda Benanyahu

“Sarcophyton” ehrenbergi, the False Toadstool Coral. Credit: Dr. Yehuda Benayahu

 Zoological taxonomy is not for the feint of heart. Take, for instance, the humble Toadstool Coral— a stalwart soft coral recommended to every rookie reef aquarist. Despite the ubiquity and importance of these corals in reef ecosystems, our understanding of their evolutionary relationships is in a nascent stage. There are no field guides enabling easy identification, and, in all likelihood, there never will be. Recent molecular study has shown that our current system for classifying the Toadstool Corals and their allies is inherently wrong in many different and important ways.… More:

Reef Threads Podcast #246

A little purple nephthea.

We return once again. This week we talk about salt, Gary’s new Live Aquaria t-shirt, the Reef Savvy Dream Tank giveaway, the Internet as a research tool, placing corals, and Level 1 and Level 2 fun. Download the podcast here, or subscribe to our podcasts at iTunes. Also, follow us on Twitter at reefthreads.—Gary and Christine

Sponsor: Rod’s Food
Rod’s Food website

Internet research
Is the Internet a Viable Resource for Marine Aquarium Research?, Jeff Kurtz, Saltwater Smarts

Coral placement
Need help with coral location, gam3ovr, Reef Central


The Hammer Coral: A Sizeable Stinger with Showpiece Potential

Hammer coral (Euphyllia ancora) can be quite variable in colorSeveral of the so-called large-polyp stony (LPS) corals offer the advantages of being very hardy, adaptable, and beautiful and, thus, make excellent reef aquarium candidates, even for relatively new reefkeepers. The hammer coral (Euphyllia ancora), however, I would characterize slightly differently. There’s no question this coral is gorgeous, but I would rate it as rather less forgiving than, say, Trachyphyllia geoffroyi. Still, if its care requirements and aggressive nature are given proper attention, this coral can be a showpiece reef aquarium resident. Physical traitsE. ancora has long, tubular tentacles with tips that resemble, as you might guess, the head of a hammer or an anchor. Most specimens I’ve come across have had brownish to grayish tentacles with the tips being some shade of green, gold, or cream, but the color can be quite variable. Colonies of this coral can get quite large—upwards of 3 feet across—which must be taken into consideration when determining tank size, placement, etc


Palythoa grandisMany of us are inspired to keep marine life for its exotic beauty or interesting behavior. But if we’re being perfectly honest, we have to admit there’s also something intriguing about keeping—and displaying to our friends and family—marine organisms that have dangerous or potentially deadly defense mechanisms, such as venomous spines, potent toxins, or razor-sharp teeth. For those hobbyists who like to flirt with danger, the marine aquarium trade certainly offers its share of prickly and poisonous characters—from venomous fishes to deadly cephalopods to noxious sessile invertebrates. There are even organisms we can buy that offer stunning beauty and potency in equal measure.Among these best-of-both-worlds critters are many of the zoanthids we’re so fond of keeping in our reef systems. These polyps (most of the ones we keep being from the Zoanthus and Palythoa genera) have much to recommend them, being very hardy and often stunningly beautiful. But some of them also contain a potent neurotoxin, called palytoxin, in their tissues and mucus that can make people very sick or even cause death if they’re not handled properly. Of course, blithely mentioning that certain popular zoanthids have the potential to sicken or kill people raises a whole host of questions that demand prompt, thorough answers. Among them: What is the nature of palytoxin

Coral Letters

coral lettersTwo years ago, Barry and Aimee Brown began photographing “hidden” letters in the brain coral colonies around Curacao, the Caribbean island where they live. Their hunt, which sometimes took them as deep as 100 feet, gave them an even better understanding of the devastation shallow-growing brain coral have experienced from bleaching and recent strong storms. You can download the full set of letters for free here as a zip file. The photographers only ask that you give them credit and that you don’t use the work commercially.… More:

Neptune Systems Par Monitoring Kit

neptune systems PMK
Neptune Systems is pleased to announce that it will begin shipping its new Par Monitoring Kit, priced at $299.95, to North America next month. For more information, go to:

Genetic Diversity within Coral Colonies

A surprising conclusion was made by the Ruhr-Universität of Germany regarding the genetic diversity within a coral colony. Researchers found that genetically diverse polyps where living harmoniously within the same coral structure by studying five different species of coral and over 222 coral colonies. “However, this doesn’t mean we should expect that this variability can compensate for corals dying worldwide due to climate change,” says Maximilian Schweinsberg from the Department of Animal Ecology, Evolution and Biodiversity at Ruhr-Universität. 150610093000_1_540x360“The ongoing climate change and the environmental change resulting thereof have an increasingly severe impact on coral reefs,” explains Schweinsberg. Biologists were able to find that within stony reef-building corals genetically diverse coral polyps can actually assist lesser adapted polyps in growth and metabolism activities, adding to their adaptability and possibly aiding in their survival rates. Read more here!… More:

All glory to the Hypnoslug

11303528_820216814733829_813840843_nJust keep staring into the hypnotizing abyss. Not quite a buzzing cartoon toad from a distant future on Earth, this iridescently patterned nudibranch was collected for photography purposes in just 30 feet of water off the eastern coast of Florida by Farside Tropicals. Almost all nudibranchs, also known as sea slugs, have evolved to feast on only one item in the ocean. Some feed on algae, others on coral, others still on flatworms. Though a small handful are quite useful for aquaria purposes and easily captive bred, most are best left to admire through photography. It is unfortunate that most species are harvested at all for the ornamental industry, as they are often very short lived and have much more value in being photographed and admired by scuba divers. Even with such diverse resources as websites like Sea Slug Forum, a nudibranch version of FishBase, most species have very little understanding as to their role on the reefs. Many species in the aquarium hobby are parasitic, coming in as hitchhikers on corals such as… 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.