Critter of the Week: Flabellum (the dentures of the sea)
This fan-shaped beauty is large and solitary, with a widespread distribution throughout New Zealand and mainly lives on soft substrate in a broad range of depths (0 – 3200 metres).
Its name, Flabellum, derives from the Latin word flabellum, meaning “fan” due to the shape of its corallum (or calcareous skeleton), which makes them very distinct from other types of stony or scleractinian corals. They are also exclusively azooxanthellate – instead of housing symbiotic algae like zooxanthellate shallow water corals (the type you would see when snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef or in the Pacific Islands!), they feed on plankton, detritus and dissolved nutrients. Most of New Zealand’s corals are actually azooxanthellate (110 species) compared with their zooxanthellate relatives (17 species) which are all found in the Kermadec Islands
Polyps of Flabellum burst in colours of neon green, pink and red which makes the coral quite a sight to see live as you will see in the images below.