Caribbean Coral in the Riviera Maya Lace Coral

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Lace corals form ornate tree-like structures, are fan like and have extremely bright colours which can range  from violet, red, orange, and yellow.  Top height of this coral species is 25 cm.   The colour is deposited within the limestone skeleton and remains even after the animal tissue is gone, unlike reef-building corals which have white skeletons and the only colour is found in the living tissue.

Distichopora corals are found in tropical waters and at deeper depths. The lace coral is commonly found in caves and under overhangs in shallow reef environments, crevices, under ledges and in caverns.  They require salt water to survive so they are not found in the cenotes in the Riviera Maya.

Unlike many coral species, lace corals do not have the symbiotic algae zooxanthellae living within the coral tissue; they are azooxanthellate, meaning they are not dependent on light and thus can live where the reef-building corals, dependent on photosynthetic algae, can not.

Lace corals are hydrozoans, and thus have different type of polyps with different functions than anthozoan corals. The polyps of hydrozoans are near microscopic size and are  imbedded in the skeleton, connected by a network of minute canals. All that is visible on the smooth surface are pores of two sizes; gastropores and dactylopores. Dactylopores house long fine hairs that protrude from the skeleton. The hairs possess clusters of stinging cells (nematocysts) that can inflict stings on human skin.  Moral is dont touch!
Reproduction in lace corals is more complex than in reef-building corals. The polyps reproduce asexually, producing jellyfish-like medusae, which are released into the water from special cup-like structures known as ampullae. The medusae contain the reproductive organs, which release eggs and sperm into the water. Fertilized eggs develop into free-swimming larvae that will eventually settle on the substrate and form new colonies. Lace corals can also reproduce asexually by fragmentation.

Lace corals are listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which means that trade in this species should be carefully regulated.  For further information on the conservation of coral reefs see:

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