Wednesday 29 October 2014

Dead Man's Fingers

Image: James Lynott
Alcyonium digitatum
Someone's sleeping with the fishes...

Dead Man's Fingers is a colonial coral.

Image: James Lynott
Black Brittle Stars on Dead Man's Finger.
Now there's a title for you
It's found predominantly in the cool waters along the coast of northern Europe, though some extremists brave the heat of Portugal and others live a fair way up into the chill of Norway. There are also some who have somehow managed to find themselves in Canada and north-east United States.

Image: James Lynott
Evil Mer-people trap the souls of drowning sailors in solid rock.
Wherever a soul waits in anguish, a finger of coral reaches out for freedom 
They like to grow on solid, rocky foundation, or the occasional crab or snail shell, and they prefer a strong current.

Dead Man's Fingers grow as a collection of fleshy, finger-like lumps up to 25 cm (10 in) tall. They're variable in colour, from grey or white to orange or pink

Image: James Lynott
In the Death Temples of Atlantis, no-one can hear you scream
They're festooned with polyps - the citizens of the colony - each one armed with eight tentacles for capturing tiny prey.

When the polyps are open and feeding, the Dead Man's Fingers takes on a soft, disintegration look. A strange cross between the Vaseline-lensed visage of a movie starlet and a dead man's sea change.

Image: James Lynott
If the coral is disturbed, the polyps retract and the whole colony looks bumpy and leathery. That's probably why they put Vaseline on the camera lens.

Dead Man's Fingers become inactive in July. Over the next six months they get covered in algae and hydroids which give them a brown or reddish appearance. They use this time to develop their gonads and in December and January they finally release eggs and sperm into the water. Most colonies are either male or female, though there are a few hermaphrodites.

Video: Countryside Council for Wales
A not so ancient Mafia burial ground

Fertilised eggs become larvae which swim around for a day or two before settling down to start colonies of their own.

It will be at least two years before a new Dead Man's Fingers can reproduce, and some colonies can live for 20 years. That sounds like a long time for a body to go undiscovered, but I guess they are only fingers...


TexWisGirl said...

okay, they're a little creepy. :)

Joseph JG said...

Haha! I think something called Dead Man's Fingers ought to be, at least a little

Lear's Fool said...

They're fingers, but they're made of stingy tickles.

Still staying with the theme, I see!

Joseph JG said...

You can make almost anything out of stingy tickles! They're extremely malleable

Crunchy said...

I think I prefer Lady Fingers. Delicious!

Joseph JG said...

Yeah, ladies are way better than dead men!