Fire coral: Beauty and the Burn

My wife and I enjoy identifying the different fish, coals and critters (aka invertebrates) found on the reefs we visit.   I take pictures and video while diving, then in the evening we review them and try to identify any that we do not recognize.    In several video sequences, I captured the action of small fish darting in an out of leafy coral heads.  At the time I believed blades to be some form of encrusting coral.  Little did I know.

On closer inspection, there were small spines protruding from the surface.  This was fire coral!  After years of hearing divers warning me to watch out for fire coral, I finally found out what it looks like.   I assume the small fish I was observing were using the fire coral for protection from predators as they darted in and out between the blades.

Fire coral is not actually coral, but a hydroid (more like a jellyfish).  The sharp calcified spines combined with the stinging cells called nematocysts present double trouble for anyone that comes in contact.   Bushing against fire coral can produce a painful sting which last for days.  Cutting your skin on fire coral can take long time to heal.  Since we strive to avoid contact with any coral, I’ve never been stung.  Hopefully these pictures will help others to avoid the burn.

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One Response to “Fire coral: Beauty and the Burn”

  1. Leslie says:

    Thanks for posting. I’ve actually been stung by these. They didn’t go away for a month. To my misfortune I didn’t familiarize myself with them first. On Guam, when you want to swim, you just swim.

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