Blue coral (Heliopora coerulea) is a species of colonial coral and the only species in the family Helioporidae and the only Octocoral known to produce a massive skeleton. This skeleton is formed of aragonite, similar to that of scleractinia. Individual polyps live in tubes within the skeleton and are connected by a thin layer of tissue over the outside of the skeleton. It was described by Pallas in 1766.
The blue coral is the only extant Octocoral with a massive skeleton, which is composed of fibrocrystalline aragonite (calcium carbonate). It is a hermatypic zooxanthellaete species with either blue or grey-grey polyps located within its skeleton, which each contain eight tentacles. Its colonies are either columnar, plates or branched. It is a tolerant species and is used in marine aquariums.
Iron salts give the skeleton of Heliopora coerulea its unique color, which allows for easy recognition in fossil outcrops. As such, it is fairly abundant within paleontology, with fossils indicating the species has remained unchanged since the Cretaceous.
Despite being common in some areas and having a large range, the blue coral has been given the conservation status of a vulnerable species by the IUCN. Its population is unknown but it is believed to be decreasing in line with the global destruction of coral reefs; it is threatened by aquarium harvesting, bleaching, habitat destruction, the acidification of oceans, and climate change. It is found in the eastern and western Indian ocean, and the eastern central, western central, northwestern, and southwestern Pacific Ocean; its range includes the Great Barrier Reef, Australia, Japan and the Ryukyu Islands. Its largest colony is believed to be located off Ishigaki Island in the Yaeyama Islands, southwestern Japan. It is found in reefs with depths below 2 metres (6 ft 7 in), or reefs exposed to waves, flats, intertidal regions, and sometimes in marginal habitats. The blue coral is listed under CITES Appendixes I and II.
Heliopora coerulea was described by Pallas in 1766.
- Obura, D.; Fenner, D.; Hoeksema, B.; Devantier, L. & Sheppard, C. (2008). "Heliopora coerulea". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2010.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 31 July 2010.
- Barnes, Robert D. (1982). Invertebrate Zoology. Philadelphia, PA: Holt-Saunders International. p. 169. ISBN 0-03-056747-5.
- "Heliopora coerulea". Arkive.org. Retrieved 17 August 2015.
- Leon P. Zann; Lesley Bolton (September 1985). "The distribution, abundance and ecology of the blue coral Heliopora coerulea (Pallas) in the Pacific". 4 (2). Coral Reefs: 125–134. doi:10.1007/BF00300871.
- Gornitz, V (2009). Encyclopedia of Paleoclimatology and Ancient Environments. Springer. pp. 202–203. ISBN 978-1402045516.
- "Heliopora coerulea". World Register of Marine Species. Retrieved 17 August 2015.
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