Last updated on April 18, 2014 at 1:21 EDT

Cauliflower Coral

Cauliflower Coral, (Pocillopora meandrina), is a species of coral found in the East Pacific and the Indo-West Pacific. Its habitat is shallow reefs, protected lagoons and lower reef slopes.

Colonies of this coral can be fairly solid and dome-shaped or branching with areas that are either flattened and ridge-like or fine and complex. The colonies are usually covered with wart-like growths called verrucae. Coral color varies from brown to pink and the polyps with their extended tentacles are usually visible only at night.

The Cauliflower coral is a hermaphrodite and each polyp contains four sets of male and four sets of female sex glands. Larvae develop inside the body of the polyp and are not expelled into the water until mature. The mature larvae remain free swimming creatures for weeks before settling and building begins.

The polyps feed by capturing tiny prey with their tentacles. They also contain microscopic algae that are able to photosynthesize. The algae produce energy-rich compounds which the polyps metabolize while the solid structure of the coral provides a stable, protective environment for the algae to flourish.

Cauliflower Coral