Soft coral alcyonarian in the Red Sea

Soft coral alcyonarian in the Red Sea

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Credit: GEOFF TOMPKINSON/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Soft coral alcyonarian in the Red Sea. This fleshy colony of great beauty forms finger-like or lobed, branched structures. One species has been named "The Dead Man's Hand". Colour varies from white to yellowish, orange-red, to purple. Calcareous spic- ules (or thickenings in the coral wall) are loose- ly distributed in the central jellylike layer. The body is coarse, leathery, and elastic. By taking up water a contracted coral can increase in size. When the colony is fully swollen the polyps begin to appear, unfolding feathered tentacles, and the coral looks like a bouquet of flowers. Commonly caught in fishermen's nets, they have been used to make fertilizers and a medicine for goiters.

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Keywords: alcyonarian coral, animal, coelenterate, coral, dead man's hand, invertebrate, invertebrates, nature, red sea, soft, wildlife, zoology

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