Mexico,  Mexico

The wildlife of the Riviera Maya and its environment IX

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Coral

Scientific: Diploria strigosa Dana

English: Symmetrical brain coral

Maaya t’aan: N/A

Description: This coral’s common name refers to its resemblance to an animal’s brain; its tiny component animals—which are related to jellyfish—grow colonially, depositing a rounded calcareous skeleton with channels that meander around the surface.

They can grow to weigh hundreds of pounds. Like the majority of hard corals, these animals maintain an obligatory, mutually beneficial relationship with specific species of zooxanthellae—microscopic, single-celled algae. These plants live within the corals’ tissues, creating nutrients through photosynthesis, which they share with the corals.

The corals, in turn, provide the algae with living space, protecting them and promoting their growth.

Habitat: Brain corals grow in warm, shallow coastal waters, where there is enough sunlight to ensure photosynthesis by the zooxanthellae. The continuous flow of water brings them their floating food—microscopic animals.

Threats: Water from land that is polluted with phosphates and nitrates promotes the rapid growth of algae on the surface of the corals, eventually killing them. They also suffer damage—which can kill them—when struck by boats, or when swimmers or divers stand on them or remove them from the water.

Collectors of live specimens occasionally—and without permission—remove corals for use in aquariums.

Uses and beliefs: Brain coral skeletons—like those of other corals—are currently marketed for decorative use, or as construction fill material.

How to protect it: Ensure that your house is connected to an efficient drainage and treatment system for wastewater. Avoid stepping on, touching or removing live corals from the reef. Avoid swimming directly over corals, in order to reduce the amount of sand that falls on top of them.

Where to observe it: As isolated specimens in the shallow reef areas

arrecife

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