The Organ-Pipe Coral (Tubipora musica) is a soft marine (saltwater) coral. It is related to the sea fan.
The Organ-Pipe Coral is a mat coral – it looks like a carpet or mat on the bottom of the ocean. The polyps live inside long, bright red parallel tubes, called sclerites, connected by horizontal platforms. The tubes calcify into a hard, red external skeleton (often used in jewelry), which makes it seem like a stony coral instead of a soft coral. Therefore, it is a soft coral with a unique hard skeleton.
It lives in a colony (the mat is actually many polyps). The series of polyps have an eight-fold symmetry – eight feather-like tentacles. The tubes look like the pipes of a musical organ. The polyps can be white, silver, cream or green. Mostly the tubes can’t be seen during the day because the tentacles cover the tubes. At night, the tentacles go inside the tubes.
It measures about 30 centimetres (12 inches) high and over 60 centimetres (24 inches) across.
The Organ-Pipe Coral is native to the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. It prefers fast-flowing shallow water and coral reefs.
It eats plankton.
Photographer: Martina Nicolls
Martina Nicolls: SIMILAR BUT DIFFERENT IN THE ANIMAL KINGDOM