Soft corals of Keppel Bay
The soft coral reefs of the Keppel Islands are mostly found in the muddy waters around the inner islands, near the mouth of the Fitzroy River.
They are spectacularly colourful, and intricate in their shapes and forms.
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.
The collection comprises sea fans and sea whips (Alcyonacea) and deep-water ‘black corals’ (Antipatharia).
Sea fan, Haven Point. © D. Brighton.
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.
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 ‘false cowries’, they have a cowrie-like shell that often mirrors the appearance of their host coral to camouflage them from predators .
Calpurnus (calpurnus) verrucosus © G La Praik.