Corallite, Polyp, Zooxanthellae

Anatomy of a coral polyp within a corallite. Illustration: NOAA.

Corallite (kawr’uh-lahyt)  The calcium carbonate exo-skeleton of a coral polyp.

Polyp (pol’-ip)  With regard to coral reefs, a tiny, colonial, sac-like animal fixed to a substrate and protected by a calcium carbonate external skeleton. 

The fleshy tentacles of orange cup corals highlight a dramatic view of coral polyps. It should be noted that orange cup lacks the zooxanthellae of reef building corals.

Zooxanthellae (zoh-uh-zan-thel’-ee)  Symbiotic dinoflagellate algae embedded in the tissues of coral polyps that perform photosynthesis to produce nutrients shared with the host

polyps. A major factor in the growth of reef-building corals.

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