Until our friend Jesse Armacost showed us tiny Red Clingfishes living in fire coral on Bonaire, I rarely paid any attention to those corals or what lived in them. Since then I’ve spent the end of many dives looking for tiny cryptic fishes and inverts that live in these typically shallow-water corals, but admit that I still didn’t really pay much attention to the corals themselves. Before I go any further, I should mention that technically, fire corals (milleporids) are not really coral – at least in the reef-building coral sense. I think a simple way to say it is fire corals are hydrocorals – hydroid colonies that secrete calcareous skeletons, a sort of intermediate between hydroids and corals.
In a previous Life List post, I talked about snorkeling in one of the less popular areas off Bonaire. In addition to learning as much as I could from my friends that day, I was examining fire coral because Ken Marks (AGRRA) had indicated he was interested in any occurrences of a fire coral, Millepora striata. I’m familiar with M. complanata (Blade), M. squarrosa (Box) and M. alcicornis (Branching) but M. striata was new to me. So, as I must always have one, looking for this coral gave me a mission. As Ken described it, “M. striata has a number of sub-plates growing off the primary plates at roughly a 90 degree angle. The number of T-connections found on this species make identification fairly easy.”
Ken Nedimyer, who had his camera, took several photos of colonies that we thought fit the description. I sent them to Ken Marks for confirmation and can now count Millepora striata on my life list!