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I was very lucky to inherit a lovely collection of Florida coral fossils from my mother- in-law, Winifred (Winkie) Mirto. She collected them many years ago during winter retreats from Michigan when it was okay to do so. Today, it’s not legal to pick up coral along Florida beaches and collect them for personal use.
The coral genus groups Diploria, Meandrina and Colpophyllia belong to the family of Faviidae and earn the common term “brain coral” due to their convoluted surfaces and general spherical shapes. They are mostly slow growing colony forms which may be colossal in scale reaching a few meters in length and living for 100′s of years.
They belong to the order of Scleractinia of which all are living corals and consist of stony skeletons. They have a light, porous skeleton consisting of external sheathing that forms a cup. Scleractinians were fairly rare in North America until the Cretaceous, about 100 million years ago, when they first built reefs in Texas and Mexico. It wasn’t until the Pleistocene Period, about 2.6 mya, that reefs flourished where they do today.
The coral polyps, the living breathing jelly-like part of the animal, are found in single file in the valley of the convolutions. They are normally contracted during daylight, but expand at night to catch microbits of food drifting by.
BRAIN CORAL CLASSIFICATION
- Kingdom - Animalia
- Phylum - Cnidaria (means stinging cells)
- Class - Anthozoa (means flower animal)
- Order - Scleratinia (stony skeleton)
- Family - Faviidae (spherical group with grooved surfaces)
- Genus - Diploria, Colpophyllia, Meandrina