Sunday, November 25, 2012

Creature Feature: Frogspawn.

Corals are pretty strange as far as animals go. Supposedly they're alive and slightly poisonous, but a lot of people treat them like rocks anyways. They make jewelry out of coral, making it effectively the most macabre jewelry ingredient after bones and claws. There are, however, soft-bodied corals...and then there are corals like this:

This coral, Euphylla divisa, goes by the charming common name of "frogspawn." It's native to the Indo-Pacific and can be readily found in the aquarium trade. It's also called the Wall, Octopus, or Honey coral. They're pretty much living acid trips in terms of color possibilities. Y'know, as if crazy tentacles weren't enough to suggest drug use.

Just as a little refresher: Corals are usually made of thousands of teeny-tiny polyps. Said polyps live on the calcified remains of their ancestors. A single "head" of coral is also made up of genetically-identical individuals. It's as if that one church in the Czech Republic was made entirely out of the bones of one, cloned individual. That said, Corsola, you scary.

I live on the bodies of my dead brethren! :D

Frogspawn is still a stony coral, but it has exceptionally-large polyps. These polyps are bubbly, green things that resemble frog or fish eggs, hence the name. The main identifying trait, however, is that the polyp is bifurcated. This distinguishes it from a few other species, most notably grape coral (which has only one, unified tentacle as opposed to split).

There is some concern about over-collection from the wild. Frogspawn is a very common coral in the trade, so there's not much need to get a wild-snagged specimen. They take two years to propagate in the wild. Just make sure that 1) you know how to handle a reef tank and 2) you ask where the corals came from. No need to harm reef systems to look at a living work of art anymore.

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