We’re back from a week of diving in the Cayman Islands with lots of fresh pictures of Caribbean corals. While identifying coral may seem daunting at first, learning to identify coral species can enrich your diving experience.
Eusmilia is a common coral found in the Caribbean, and with only one species (Eusmilia fastigiata) you should all quickly become experts in identifying this recognizable coral.
Smooth Flower Coral
Eusmilia is commonly known as smooth flower coral and can be found in the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico, the Bahamas and southern Florida, at depths down to about 200ft (60 meters). Eusmilia is a photosynthetic coral and is often found in shallow protected reef environments.
Eusmilia colonies can grow into small mounds about 20 in (50 cm) across. The colony grows long tubular corallites that extend from the base in groups of one, two or three. The tips of each polyp are oval or peanut shaped and have a ridged texture.
Fleshy polyps extend from the corallite at night to feed on passing zooplankton. Extended polyps give this coral a flower-like appearance, giving the common name smooth flower coral. During the day this coral looks more like a trumpet.
Look for Eusmilia on night dives! This tubular coral comes alive at night with big fleshy polyps. If there are copepods or zooplankton gathering around your dive light try drifting them towards the coral. With any luck, the polyp will grab hold and race to consume the food.
Eusmilia corallites at times can appear to be budding from the ground. This happens when sediments and algae grow between the corallite branches, resulting in the space filling up and only a few inches showing of the corallite.
The Coral Diaries series is a list of corals we have seen while diving around the world. We’ve created this series so that you can learn more about corals, and how to identify them on the reef. We encourage you to send us your coral pictures and leave a comment in the section below to learn more about the interesting species you’ve found while diving.