DENDROGYRA CYLINDRUS

(PIL­LAR CO­RAL) Sharpen your ID skills for the most in­trigu­ing co­ral species

Scuba Diving - - ASCEND - BY NI­COLE HELGASON

Q cylindrus Dendrogyra is one of the rarest corals in the Caribbean and is listed as a threat­ened species un­der the En­dan­gered Species Act. Dendrogyra colonies grow into pil­lars, spires or col­umns that can reach more than 6 feet tall — no won­der the com­mon name for this co­ral is the Caribbean pil­lar co­ral. Q One of the rea­sons Dendrogyra is so rare is that, in 30 years, very few — if any — ju­ve­nile colonies have been recorded. In 2015, Dr. Kristen Marhaver from the CARMABI in­sti­tute in Cu­raçao ob­served spawn­ing be­hav­ior and was able to suc­cess­fully raise ju­ve­nile Dendrogyra cylindrus corals in a lab. Q Dendrogyra is found in fl at, shel­tered lo­ca­tions, rang­ing from the south­ern tip of Florida Venezuela down and to Panama. Colonies have en­crust­ing bases that spread across rocks, with tall spires grow­ing up­ward from the base. Pil­lar corals are found in shal­low reef habi­tats full of sun­light. They can be found in a cur­rent or nearshore, where waves stir up nu­tri­ents in the wa­ter. It is un­com­mon to find a pil­lar co­ral past 80 feet. Q of The Dendrogyra skele­ton has me­an­der­ing val­leys sim­i­lar to the Me­an­d­rina (colo­nial stony) and Colpophyl­lia ( boul­der brain) corals. Dur­ing the day, polyps are com­monly ex­tended to catch and feed on zoo­plank­ton in the wa­ter col­umn, giv­ing Dendrogyra a fuzzy ap­pear­ance. When the polyps are re­tracted, the colony has a maze­like ap­pear­ance and skele­tal fea­tures.

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