Science Interviews


Wed, 11th Aug 2010

Critter of the Month - Star Coral

Nancy Knowlton, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

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Nancy Knowlton from the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History chooses this month's critter.

Star Coral

Find out more

Great star coral (Montastrea cavernosa) info on sealifebase

Nancy Knowlton. Sant Chair for Marine Science. Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History


Hello. My name’s Nancy Knowlton and I’m a biologist at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. If I could be a critter in the ocean I’d be a Caribbean boulder star coral. These are, they’re called star corals and boulder corals because they make huge stony skeletons and the surface is covered with little mouths surrounded by tentacles that look like stars.

They’re also in a way the stars of the reef because although they grow very slowly and reproduce just once a year in about a half hour time period they’re very strong so that when a big hurricane comes all the more fragile corals are broken to pieces but the star corals survive. 

Now in the Caribbean the star corals have been really common for thousands and thousands of years but lately they’ve been suffering a lot from bleaching, from water that’s too warm in the sea. So I guess it is an open question as to whether they’ll be the stars of the reef in the future.


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