Soft corals of the Keppel Islands

The soft coral reefs of the Keppel Islands are spectacularly colourful, and intricate in their many shapes and forms.

They are mostly found in deeper waters and often associate with molluscs that mimic their shape and colour in order to confuse predators.


Phenacovolva (pellasimnia) improcera beautifully camouflaged on its coral host. © G La Praik.

Soft corals are not as well understood as hard corals. They don’t build calcium carbonate skeletons for other corals to grow on, yet they are just as important to the Keppel Bay ecosystem as the hard corals.

Sea fan, Haven Point. © D. Brighton.

The Gordon La Praik Soft Coral Collection

Citizen scientist and naturalist Gordon La Praik has been photographing, collecting, preserving and curating soft corals from Keppel Bay and southern Geat Barrier Reef since the 1950s. His collection is unique because he has preserved the specimens with their polyps relaxed, just as he found them in the field.

The collection comprises sea fans and sea whips (Alcyonacea) and deep-water ‘black corals’ (Antipatharia).

Many of the soft coral specimens in the collection come complete with the beautiful Ovulidae molluscs, or sea snails, that live on the corals (their ‘epibiotic symbionts’ or ‘episymbionts’). Also known as Ovulids or ‘false cowries’, they have a cowrie-like shell that often mirrors the appearance of their host coral to camouflage them from predators  [45].

Calpurnus verrucosus on a soft coral, Keppel Bay © G La Praik.

About Gordon La Praik

A story of curiosity, improvisation, innovation, and an enduring passion that became a life-long obsession.

Gordon La Praik Soft Coral Collection

Browse the Gordon La Praik Virtual Gallery of Soft Corals and Molluscs which has stunning photos of live specimens and more details about each specimen.