I’ve often wondered just how large a single coral specimen can get, and I think this might be a contender for the ‘largest coral I’ve ever seen award’.
I came across this particularly large specimen that was growing in a slight recess in the wall of a sea mount type reef in the middle of the Red Sea. As you can see, it reaches to the surface and down into the depths. I didn’t have the gas to be able to reach its lowest part, but I estimate it was over twenty five meters deep. I guess there will be quite a lot of rubble from fallen pieces that will have accumulated below.
Now I’m possibly about to show my ignorance here, but without checking through my coral ID books, I think this is Porites lutea, a coral known to grow into massive ‘micro atolls’. If I’m wrong, I’d welcome being set right.
Looking at this specimen offers an insight into how corals and indeed reefs grow over time. This coral must be constantly shedding pieces of itself which will fall or may come to rest and re grow. Growth at the top will be at the expense of growth below as lower sections are shaded out, until a storm or simple gravity alone causes the coral to break.
I’ve rarely seen a larger single coral, though sometimes on some reefs, you do see thick stands of one species of Acropora that one can assume are all clonal in nature, but for simple solidity, this coral is a winner.