Elegant by name and nature, this spectacular coral can catch small prey with its tentacles. Elegance coral (Catalaphyllia jardinae) is characterized by green tentacles tipped with bright pink and a ‘zebra’ stripped mouth, or oral disc, on each polyp. Despite its ability to catch small prey, most of the energy this animal gets comes from a symbiotic relationship with algae. The algae, called zooxanthellae, live within the tissues of the coral, and through photosynthesis, provide nutrients for the coral. In exchange, the algae have a protected structure from which to access sunlight to get its energy.
This species seems to prefer to grow on muddy sandy bottoms and where there is a high level of sea grasses and algae in the surroundings. Elegance coral can be found in both individual polyps and colonies from parts of East Africa to Asia and Australia. Although it is found across a wide geographical range this species is rare and is the only member of the Catalaphyllia genus. This species is considered evolutionarily distinct and has a long fossil history. There are however, still many aspects the biology and life history of elegance coral that are unknown.
As a result of its popularity in the aquarium trade this specie’s biggest threat is over-harvesting to supply such market. Like other corals it is also threatened by coral bleaching, ocean acidification and damage from human activities such as destructive fishing, pollution and coastal development.