Blue Coral: Helioporacea
Blue Coral is known for its unique blue colour which it maintains even after death. Blue Coral, from the order Helioporacea, is actually an octocoral (polyps with 8 tentacles) and not a scleractinian coral (‘true’ coral with 6 tentacles). In fact, its not even that closely related to ‘true’ corals.
Blue Coral is very unique because most (all but 2) octocorals are soft corals – like sea pens and sea fans, but heliopora is one of the two that secrete a calcium carbonate skeleton, so look (and feel) like hard corals. They grow well in a variety of conditions, and are used in the aquarium trade because of hardiness but also for their beautiful blue color.
Blue Coral are on the IUCN ‘vulnerable’ list – which means they are close to endangered, but not quite there yet. This species is particularly susceptible to bleaching, harvesting for aquarium and curio trade. Let’s keep them off that endangered species list!
This photo was taken off the island of Ifaluk, a remote Outer Island in the Federated States of Micronesia. See more photos of our dive here.