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Orange cup coral

Orange cup coral

On Exhibit

Animal Facts

  • Scientific Name

    Balanophyllia elegans

  • Animal Type


  • Diet

    small animals, organic particles

  • Size

    to 1 inch (2.5 cm)

  • Relatives

    hydroids, corals and jellyfishes; Phylum Cnidaria

Natural History

Corals in the cold waters along the coast of California don't build reefs like their tropical kin do. This coral does make its own outer skeleton: that cuplike limestone base underneath. A cup coral larva crawls on the rocky seafloor before settling. After cementing its limestone skeleton to a rock, the coral is set for life.


Rocky reefs are important homes for many kinds of fishes and invertebrates. But "rockhopper" trawls, used in commercial fishing, can leave reefs a tumbled wasteland, unable to recover for decades.

Cool Facts

Reef-building corals form huge colonies, but cup corals live solitary lives, taking refuge in their individual "cups."

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