Coral Color: What Does It Mean

colors coral reefAny diver knows that a trip down into the deep “dark” abyss is not so dark. As a matter of fact, divers are often surrounded by an assortment of colors. From the fish to the coral, a short dive can hit a sensory overload. Coral reefs are undeniably some of the world’s most colorful places. But how and why do they get their color?

Most coral polyps have clear bodies and their skeletons are white- like human bones. The brilliant colors you see underwater come from the zooxanthellae that are living inside their tissues.  Zooxanthellae are the tiny plant cells that live within most types of coral polyps. They help to provide coral with foods that result from photosynthesis while also being responsible for the unique and beautiful colors of many stony corals.

Coral Can Be Classified Into Two Categories:

  • Hard Coral: which grow in colonies and are architects of coral reefs. Elkhorn coral and brain coral are examples of hard coral.
  • Soft Coral: This type of coral doesn’t have stony skeletons, instead they grow very strong cores and tend to have fleshy rinds for protection. Examples of soft corals are sea fingers and sea whips.

The shape of coral is determined by where they live. Those that live in reefs with strong waves tend to grow in robust mounds or flattened shapes. In sheltered areas, the same coral species can grow into more intricate shapes with branching patterns.

The next time you are diving in the depths of beautiful coral, you can take a look at their color, shape and type to appreciate and respect its beauty.


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