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Coral Reefs: Hard corals vs soft corals

11 August 2016

All coral reefs of different oceans will have a combination of soft corals (also known as Alcyonacea and Ahernatypic coral) and hard corals (also known as Scelaractinian and Stony coral) that come in various shapes and sizes, but there are some distinct differences between the two types. Read below a beginners guide to coral reefs: hard corals vs soft corals:

Hard Corals

  • Hard corals widely make up the oceans coral reef structure, also comprising of dead hard coral skeletons that become a harbor for other corals, both hard and soft.
  • The majority of hard corals have multiple single polyps living together in colonies with potential growth of 2cm a year.
  • Each and every hard coral polyp has rings of approximately 6 smooth tentacles (also known as Hexacoral).
  • They are hard calcareous based and rigid-crystal appearing in their structure
  • Hard Corals consist of types LPS (Large Polyp Scleractinian ) and SPS (Small Polyp Scleractinian)
  • The LPS corals are generally made up of larger calcareous that create larger plump polyps
  • The SPS corals are generally made up of smaller calcareous that create smaller  polyps
  • Generally hard corals are either branching or plated.
  • Hard Corals tend to extend their tentacles when feeding is in progress and on the amount of light or current that occurs.

Soft Corals

  • Soft corals have an anatomic structure with spiracle tissues that support their bodies
  • Soft Corals have multiple single polyps that combine to form large colonies. The central core of each colony consists of Gorgonin, a flexible and fibrous type of protein that elasticities the soft coral colony to move with the waves.
  • Each and every soft coral have sets of 8 fuzzy-like tentacles for feeding (also known as Octocoral)
  • Soft corals have a graceful and colourful plant-like appearance
  • A colony of soft corals have potential growth of 2-4cm a year



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