Sunday, December 28, 2008

Penguin Island - fan corals

Sea fans, fan corals or gorgonians (Mopsella klunzingeri?) are some of the most beautiful creatures that I have come across underwater.

I found them under overhangs when I was exploring the reef platform at the southern shore of the island. These animals don't rely much on the symbiotic algae in their tissues for food production. Thus they can live where it is not really well-lit in the sun. They rely on the strong currents to bring them food.

Taking their photos was really a challenge to me because of the waves. They were just a foot or two below the surface. I had to be careful and hold on to whatever I could so that the waves won't push me into the reef surface. (It must hurt!) But also, the light conditions were really not that good. It was one of those moments that I hoped I was diving instead, and could stay underwater as long as I want and find the best positions to take those photos. Anyway, despite the poor image quality, I don't blame my camera or its owner. They tried their best!

Gorginians have calcareous spicules in their tissues for support. However, they also have a kind of protein called gorgonin in their skeletons, hence their rigid but flexible branching structures.

These are surprises to me! I only knew that there were brittle stars in the gorgonian branches when I came home and looked at the photos in their actual size!

Well, yet another reason to return to the same spot with my camera again!


Mosura said...

The colours are amazing and so are those little brittle stars! Hope you're keeping clear of those sharks.

Tsun-Thai Chai said...

Well, actually the Penguin island is just 7 or 8 km away from Port Kennedy, where the shark accident took place on Saturday. I think I won't go back there for a while.

By the way, it's probably to late to wish you a Merry Xmas, but still, HAPPY NEW YEAR, Alan.

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Chai
Like Alan, I was wondering if you would post anything for a few days, because of the sad news from over there.
I know nothing about Brittle Stars, or indeed the fan corals.

George said...

Hi Chai. I had no idea these corals could be found at Penguin Is. until your pics. Superb pics, BTW. Thanks for pointing me this way. I'll definitely have to have a closer look at these corals the next time I'm at Pengiun Is.