Friday 21 December 2012

Christmas Cactus?

Image: Alfiero Brisotto
Alcyonium palmatum
It's a Christmas Cactus! I think... But what's it doing at the bottom of the sea?

OK, fine! It's not a cactus. It's a coral. Specifically, it's Alcyonium palmatum, a kind of soft coral found on the European side of the Atlantic and the Mediterranean Sea.

Image: Alfiero Brisotto
Being soft corals they don't have the tough, stony skeletons that some others have. Instead they're rather leathery.

Inside this leathery tissue are the siphonozooids, which are polyps that pump water into the colony and ensure the whole thing doesn't collapse under it's own weight.

Image: Alfiero Brisotto
At the surface are the autozooids, the feeding polyps. When not in use, they are retracted into the red skin to keep them safe and secure.

Come dinner time, those little white polyps emerge and spread their eight, delicate tentacles into the current and capture tiny morsels of food.

Image: Alfiero Brisotto
Because Christmas doesn't really begin until dinner time!


TexWisGirl said...

rather pretty!

Joseph JG said...

Enough to decorate the tree with!

Anonymous said...

Hey, I would use this to decorate the house! Really pretty!

Joseph JG said...

It would look great! If only there really was a cactus like this.