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Black Coral

I often receive interesting private messages on my Facebook page

A few days ago, Bess writes… “I would like to see what the oldest living organism looks like – off New Zealand – 4265 years old.”

She goes on to say… “I play Trivia about 6 times a year and one of the questions was True or False that there is an organism still living that is over 2000 years old. I guessed correct and even thought it was off Australia. Sure enough off New Zealand.”

Not having been familiar with BLACK CORAL, Bess’s comment prompted me to write a short blog on it.

Thanks for the learning lesson and congrats on knowing the trivia answer, Bess!

Black coral, aka whip or wire coral,* refer to a group of deep water, tree-like corals.

These corals, which belong to the order of Antipatharia, are members of the Cirrhipathes species. They are un-branched corals which can extend nearly 10 feet (3 meters) or more from the attached base of the reef and can be straight or form attractive and peculiar twisted or coiled shapes.

Black coral’s name comes from them having a black or brownish flexible skeleton with distinctive tiny spines on the surface of their skeleton. These tiny spines are why they are sometimes referred to as “little thin corals.”

Soft bodied polyps which cover their skeleton are what give them their colors, generally pale green, yellow, brown and / or gray. One end of the polyp is attached to the skeleton at the base while the other end has a mouth surrounded by tentacles.

* Unlike many other corals which retract their polyps during the day or night, Cirrhipathes corals are only partly able to retract their polyps. This is what gives them a barbed-wire-like appearance.

According to Wikipedia, black coral normally occur in the tropics. They are also found in rather dark water areas such as New Zealand’s Milford Sound where they can be viewed from an underwater observatory or via Scuba diving.

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