Warty Corallimorph

Below me was a large mat of beautiful underwater flowers. I put my hand over the golden wart like tentacles that radiated out from the center and felt the rubbery texture. Puzzled, I could not identify what this critter was. It looked like an anemone but the pattern told me it might be something else. I motioned to Mary and pointed, she gave me this I do not know shrug and placed her hand over the tentacles. I took out my slate and wrote “anemone?” and she shook her head with a look of uncertainty so I took a couple of quick photos to identify it when we got home.

We were diving with Kay Wilson of Indigo Dive St. Vincent at “The Steps”. This dive site is next to the shore of St. Vincent at an ancient (relatively speaking) spot where islanders would come to bath and throw their trash out. You might find a treasure of trash sunk into the sand like old bottles but more than likely, you will find a wealth of critters on this dive.

By now, you must know that the simple things are what I find the most interesting. I was fascinated with the color, shape and texture of this simple creature, which I learned, was a warty corallimorph (core-AL-uh-more). The warty corallimorph is also called a false coral because its structure is similar to hard coral with the exception of the calcareous skeleton.

Consider the odds of this large mat of warty corallimorph even existing. Upon spawning millions of eggs are released but they must survive numerous planktonic and sessile predators. Provided they survive these predators, they then have to find the perfect spot to settle, a clean surface without too much sediment. However, even if they find the perfect spot they must traverse the network of hungry mouths and tentacles. Finally, if the larva is lucky enough to find a perfect spot to settle in it may be inundated with sand and smothered. With those poor odds and less than one-percent of the millions of eggs released having a chance to reach adulthood finding such a large mat of warty corallimorph made me feel lucky indeed.

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