Orange Cup Coral
Balanophyllia elegans

Looking like an alien spacecraft framed by the stars, a solitary Orange Cup Coral stretches its tentacles out to capture passing bits of food.

Their translucent tentacles bear dozens of small wart-like nodules, each of which house stinging cells called nematocysts, which are used for both defense and to capture food.  When the nematocyst is disturbed, it fires a hollow thread into the body of its predator or prey.  Predators hopefully flee; prey are snagged and paralyzed, then carried into the coral's mouth in the center of its body.

Orange Cup Corals grow to about 1 inch (25mm) in diameter, and may be found from British Columbia to central Baja California.

Lens: 60mm macro
Film: Velvia
Location: San Clemente Island, CA
©1999 Garry McCarthy