Many people know about black coral as a material for rather expensive jewelry. Biologists and scuba divers know that these creatures that look like plants are actually sea animals.
Antipatarias, or black corals (from lat. Antipatharia) - are a detachment in the class of coral polyps, which includes 7 families, 40 genera and 235 species. These corals are also called spiky for the presence of needle formations on their skeletons.
Black sea corals are widespread in absolutely all oceans, they live both in shallow water and at great depths, but mostly they can be found at a hundred-meter depth of subtropical and tropical sea zones.Black corals (Antipatharia).
All antipatarias are colonial organisms, which consist of the rigid axis of the colony and a large number of small polyps extending from it. Colonies are of various kinds: branching, non-branching, and also similar to a long flexible trunk. In addition, there are also forms similar to a curl of a spiral.
Live black corals have a different color, mostly quite bright. The very name "black" animals received for the characteristic color of their skeleton.The skeleton of black coral is of protein origin.
The skeleton is not calcareous, it is built from molecules of a protein bearing the name antipatine (by the way, it is the protein that got its name from corals, and not vice versa). The epithelial cells of these marine organisms secrete the antipathin protein and lay it in layers around the central base, gradually creating their skeleton.Black corals do not like bright light.
The spiky coral polyps are small, reaching only 0.5-2 millimeters in size. Polyps have a cylindrical shape and the same structure within the colony. The mouth of the polyp surrounds the corolla, which consists of tentacles. These tentacles have stinging cells, which, as you know, have another aquatic creature - jellyfish.
Antipatarias do not exist where bright light is present. Light does not reach corals that live at great depths. Other corals that live not so deep in caves and grottoes are content with dim light or are active in the dark. Interestingly, in spiky corals, symbiotic algae were found that cannot survive in the dark without the possibility of photosynthesis. It is not clear why black corals need such symbions.Polyps of black coral have microscopic dimensions.
Black corals settle in those places where there are strong currents that carry plankton. It is plankton that feed on black corals. Some experts claim that the suitability for life in certain places in black corals is determined precisely by the current.
Spiky corals reproduce sexually and asexually. They grow very slowly. In a year, colonies grow only a few centimeters in length and only a fraction of a centimeter in thickness. Large specimens found underwater are old corals.Black coral spiral shape.
From the age of 50 years old, black corals can become suitable for jewelry. To date, the longest life expectancy of such animals is estimated at 4265 years and belongs to the spiky coral of the genus Leiopathes.Black coral jewelry is an expensive and rare thing.
In many countries, black coral mining is prohibited. Their appearance has sharply decreased due to the extraction and pollution of the seas. In some countries, the use and extraction of spiky corals has been controlled at the national and international levels.
Black coral has a national symbol and gem status in Hawaii. Locals claim that black corals from Hawaii alone are the best on the planet.