Brain coral is a hard coral made of calcium carbonate, or limestone, which hardens into a rock-like exoskeleton. Slowly over time, the growing skeletal structure forms together in a wavy clump that resembles a real brain. Be brainy about brain coral by reading these cool facts:

  • Corals are part of the phylum Cnidaria (related to anemones and jellyfish) in a class called Anthozoa or “flower animals”.
  • The grooves of brain coral resemble a labyrinth, giving rise to its scientific name ‘labryinthiformis.’
  • Although they look like rocks, brain corals are animals.
  • Brain corals are invertebrates (i.e., they do not have a backbone).
  • The outer surface of brain coral is hard and offers good protection against fish or hurricanes.
  • Brain coral grows in relatively shallow salt water in tropical locations.
  • Grooved brain coral structures only grow a few millimeters each year.
  • Brain corals can live up to 900 years and grow to 6 feet tall! How many living brain coral have you spotted in the waters around St. John?
  • Despite their name, brain corals are completely brainless.
  • Though they appear to be very large, only the outer few millimeters represent living tissue, while the rest is a calcium carbonate skeleton.
  • The living parts of the coral are called polyps. The fleshy, tube-like polyps are genetically identical, each with tentacles that surround its mouth.
  • The polyps secrete calcium carbonate, which builds-up and the brain coral expands, helping to keep the complex coral reef growing and the animals within it safe.
  • Brain coral feeds on small drifting animals, as well as the algae that grows within it. 
  • Brain corals extend their “sweeper tentacles” to sting and catch food at night and retract them into their grooves for protection during the day.
  • Brain corals are hermaphroditic, meaning they produce both eggs and sperm to reproduce.
  • Brain coral release sperm to fertilize eggs within their own colonies.
  • After an egg hatches, larva is released and settles on the surface, where it begins to form a new colony.
  • When a colony on the brain coral dies, its limestone skeleton remains and adds to the structure.
  • Healthy brain coral is good for the ecosystem.
  • Coral and coral reefs are dying at an incredible rate. You can help save the reef by wearing full-coverage swimwear or reef-safe sunscreen.
  • Dead brain coral

Learn more about brain coral on Wikipedia


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