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.
Sea fan, Haven Point. © D. Brighton.
Gordon La Praik, an amateur coral collector and naturalist, has preserved and curated soft corals from Keppel Bay and Gladstone since the 1950s. Gordon’s collection is unprecedented because the specimens were preserved with their polyps relaxed as they were found in the field.
Gordon’s is a unique collection of reef-dwellers that have co-evolved as sediment-tolerant specialists on the southern inshore Great Barrier Reef.
Many of the specimens in the collection come complete with the beautiful molluscs that live on the corals (their ‘epibiotic symbionts’ or ‘episymbionts’).
The appearance of the mollusc often mirrors that of its host coral to camouflage itself from predators .
A gorgonian coral skeleton, Shell House Museum, Yeppoon. © Alison Jones.