What is a coral polyp?
Polyps are tiny animals. Hard tree corals exist in a variety of colors. The sea anemone is a soft coral.
A polyp is an animal. Most polyps are tiny and live in clusters called ‘colonies.’ Polyps may have hard or soft skeletons. Of the 2,400 living species of corals worldwide, two-thirds of the known coral species have soft skeletons, while one-third of the species have hard skeletons. The type of polyp determines the size and shape of the colony. Some colonies look like “trees” while another colony may look like a brain!
Polyps have tentacles that extend at night in order to feed. Polyps also have a mouth, throat and stomach.
Most soft coral polyps only have eight legs (except sea anemones) whereas other polyps have twelve, eighteen or even twenty-four legs. Colonies of soft corals include: soft tree corals, sea pens, sea whips, sea fans, and sea anemones.
Hard coral polyps have tentacles, a mouth, throat, and stomach, but unlike soft polyps, the hard polyps also have a base made of limestone.
When polyps with hard skeletons die, their tiny bones create a rock called ‘limestone.’ Coral reefs are made of limestone or the crushed bones of many, many millions of hard polyps! Reef-building corals include: Mushroom Coral, Staghorn Coral, Brain Coral, Bubble Coral, Chalice or Lettace Coral, and Tree or Tube Coral.
Most corals have many polyps that live in clusters called ‘colonies.’ Polyps are tiny animals that use their tentacles to capture food. (See Hard Tree Corals. Most of the corals pictured here are not feeding.) Some polyps live alone. The Mushroom Coral is a large, single polyp. The type of polyp determines the size and shape of the colony. Polyps may also have hard or soft skeletons. When polyps with hard skeletons die, their tiny bones create a rock called ‘limestone.’ Coral reefs are made of limestone or the crushed bones of many, many millions of polyps!
Art copyright 2011 by Tammy Carter Bronson.