Anemones and Corals: Anthozoa
Red Coral (corallium Rubrum): Species Accounts
Physical characteristics: Red coral forms tree-shaped colonies. This coral has a red calcium carbonate skeleton almost 20 inches (50 centimeters) tall. Tiny hard rods are embedded in the outer part of the animal's body. Feeding tubes with eight tentacles can be completely withdrawn into the animal's tissue. Red coral also has tiny nonfeeding tubes that lack tentacles and contain the sex organs.
Geographic range: Red coral lives in the central and western parts of the Mediterranean Sea and in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of southern Portugal and northern Africa.
Habitat: Red coral lives on cave walls, vertical cliffs, and overhangs in water 33 to 820 feet (10 to 250 meters) deep.
Diet: Red coral uses its tentacles to capture animal plankton. It also may directly absorb dissolved nutrients from the water through its outer layer of tissue.
Behavior and reproduction: Scientists do not know how red coral behaves. This coral has separate sexes. Male colonies release sperm that swim and are carried by currents to female colonies. Eggs are fertilized inside the females and develop inside for about thirty days. Nonfeeding larvae are released and swim for as long as fifteen days before settling. Red coral sometimes but rarely reproduces asexually.
Red coral and people: The skeleton of red coral is highly valued for jewelry. The ancient Phoenicians, Egyptians, and Romans used coral for trade. According to Greek legend, red coral confers magical powers such as defending ships against lightning and eliminating hatred from the home. Powdered coral skeleton is sold as an herbal medicine to treat digestive and other disorders.
Conservation status: Red coral is not threatened or endangered. ∎
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