See The Difference
We are going to try and help you tell the difference between what live coral looks like VS what Dead Coral looks like. Because of possible rising ocean temperatures, damage from over-tourism, and overfishing in some areas, it's estimated that 75% of the world's corals reefs are already dead. As you can image, the remainder of the coral is at risk and fighting for
survival. As sad as it sounds, finding a live healthy coral reef is actually becoming quite rare. Many people when visiting the Hawaiian Islands will have their first snorkeling experience at popular tourist locations like Hanauma Bay in Oahu, Molokini Crater in Maui or Captain Cook on the Big Island. Some of the coral at these locations, however, most of it is new and
living. With some our images below, we hope you will have a better idea of what live vs dead coral looks like. Please remember that is common reef etiquette to not touch and/ or stand on the coral.
To the human eye Coral will resemble a Stone Or a Plant, but its actually a massive Colony Of Animals
Coral should be looked up as being the forest of our worlds oceans, except that coral it is not a plant, it is a colony of animals called polyps.
Polyps live in a symbiotic relationship with algae, and they build tiny calcium stone houses for themselves. Overtime, all of these built houses are stacked ontop of one another and eventually form larger structures like apartment buildings. These can take many different shapes that might look like hard rock boulders, fans, trees or twig branches from the ground.
Some reef types are flexible and move with the currents of sea. If you look closely at one of the pictures we provided above you can see the built structure of these calcium houses, where the owners (animals) are withdrawn inside. In general, most corals only come out at night to feed, although there are many exceptions to that.
For example, in the first picture provided below you will see a leather coral (which is partially bleached), and the animals are retracted inside. The next sequential picture shows the animals out feeding.
I know, I know, its hard to think of corals as animals, but they truly are. Corals often feed on zooplankton that they pull inside and digest in their stomachs, and in
Aquarium corals are often fed with brine shrimp.
What Live Vs Dead Coral Looks Like
Please take some time to view the pictures we have provided for you below. These are just a few samples of some common corals that can be seen in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.
Look closely at the color and shape. Old dead corals will look like they are broken down, will not possess or display any healthy colors, and in many instances will be covered in algae.
Corals that look like they have been bleached, this is from rising ocean temperatures that have made life unsustainable. Therefore, the white color is the left over visual effect of the symbiotic algae leaving the coral.
Dead Or Dying Elkhorn Coral
Healthy Elkhorn Coral
Dead Or Dying Brain Coral
Healthy Brain Coral
Unhealthy Or Dead Sea Fan Corals
Dead Or Unhealthy Staghorn Coral
Healthy Staghorn Coral
Dead/Bleached Table Coral
Healthy Table Coral & Some Bleached
Unhealthy/Bleached Boulder Coral
Healthy Boulder Coral
Healthy & Unhealthy Cauliflower Coral Side By Side
Algae Sometimes Takes Over A Dead Reef
If a coral reef is damaged and dies, often the reef becomes covered in algae like in the picture below.
Corals Are Critical For Healthy Oceans
Corals clean the oceans, provide habitat, and are food to countless other species. And we are seeing a global mass extinction on a scale that is terrifying for not only ocean health, but human fisheries. Without coral reefs, human jobs and food sources are rapidly declining.
What Can You Do?
Helping prevent the continued destruction of coral reefs is pretty easy on a personal level at least
- Learn to recognize the live vs dead coral on the reef
- Only use sunscreens that don't kill the reef or wear a full body rash guard
- Don't touch or kick coral. We ask that you always practice good reef etiquette.
Fight the human causes and protection of our oceans in any way you feel you can.
Please consider supporting an ocean conservation related charity.
So the next time you are out snorkeling, and see some beautiful fish, like in the pictures below, make sure and look behind at the corals, and take note of its condition. The corals are 95% dead in these pictures. Without corals, you can expect the oceans entire ecosystem to be stressed and declining.