Oculina diffusa is a coral we never thought we would see in person! However, on a recent trip to Honduras, we found several colonies in the least expected habitat
Oculina is a thin delicate branching species of coral and there are four different species of Oculina in the Caribbean. You can find this coral along the coast of Florida and in the Bahamas but it is rare as you travel further south.
Oculina is a brown or golden yellow color and has raised almost tubular corallites. These darker color are from photosynthetic zooxanthellae living in the coral’s tissue, however, an interesting fact about Oculina is it can expel the symbiotic algae turning a bright white. When this happens the coral can still survive by catching food from the water column.
Diffuse Ivory Bush Coral
The colony size is small growing up to 30 cm (12 inch). Branches are thin with a diameter less than 1.5 cm (1/2 inch) in diameter. The common name for this coral is the Diffuse Ivory Bush Coral.
All Oculina corals are called ivory bush coral, but Oculina diffusa has short spread out branches. The other species are the delicate, robust and large ivory bush coral.
We found these colonies of Oculina on a very shallow reef at the tip of Tela Bay. The area called Punta Sal less than 2 meters (6 feet deep) and dominated with the biggest field of Elkhorn corals we’ve ever seen.
We didn’t expect to find this delicate coral in such a rough and tumble habitat. There were currents and surge, something which the robust elkhorn corals like, and most of the time this area is silty or covered in sediments. I guess this goes to show that corals can be in the least place we expect them!
In the sand, we also found flower anemones which you can see in the images below.