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Question of the Week: Why is brain coral shaped like a brain?

By Lisa Plotkin, on 12 March 2014


Ruth Blackburn #1By Ruth Blackburn

The aptly named brain coral is a dome-shaped member of the family Faviidae which has distinct sinuous valleys (that’s the wibbly ridgey bits that look like the surface of a brain).

So why the dome shape?  This is largely driven by the position of the coral within the reef: brain coral is found in shallow parts of reef at a depth of about 1-15 metres. At this depth there is substantial wave action, which corals with a compact spheroid shape are much more resilient to than those with thin antler-like projections.

Brain coral from the Grant Museum collection.

Brain coral from the
Grant Museum collection.

The sinuous valleys on the surface of the brain coral can also be explained.  These mark the areas in which polyps – soft bodied marine creatures – are most densely found.  Polyps are able to secrete calcium carbonate (just like the scale that builds up in your kettle) to form a hard and protective exoskeleton that it can live in: this exoskeleton is what you actually see when you visit the Grant Museum.

2 Responses to “Question of the Week: Why is brain coral shaped like a brain?

  • 1
    stacytg wrote on 12 March 2014:

    RT @ResearchEngager: Question of the Week: Why is brain coral shaped like a brain?: http://t.co/Ch2ireGHYC

  • 2
    stacytg wrote on 14 March 2014:

    Wibbly ridgey bits!

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