You may have heard of or even seen coral reefs before. The corals that make up these reefs may look like strange rock formations or odd plants, but in actuality, corals are animals.
These marine invertebrates live in large colonies of genetically identical polyps: tiny, spineless creatures which are typically vase-shaped. A colony of these polyps is known as a coral “head”.
Corals don’t do anything very fast, which is why many people mistake them for rocks or plants. But when you get long term footage of these strange creatures and speed it up, you immediately realize that they are very much alive.
Check out this awesome time lapse video of corals in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, captured by Pim Bongaerts from the University of Queensland:
Coral also use the calcium and carbonate in the water to create a hard, calcified exoskeleton for protection (which is why some mistake them for rocks). When a polyp is physically stressed, it recedes behind this tough outer layer.
Coral are also equipped with stinging tentacles, which they typically use to capture plankton and small fish. They also use them when competing for space with other corals.
You can check out more of Bongaerts’s work on his website coraltimelapse.com.