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SOFT CORAL IN MEDIUM FORMAT


Every time I’m back from one of my trips in the hot and clear waters of the Red Sea, the colours of the alcionarian remain in my eyes and memory for days; they are certainly the most fascinating living creatures among those that could be found in the coral reefs. To move around the dedalus of these “animal forests” is certainly one of the most unforgettable and fascinating underwater experience; similar to day dreaming. These soft corals with arborescent shape are built by the union of small polyps, with eight tentacles (octocoral), each of them with a poisonous dart, a mouth and a stomach; they react, if chemically stimulated, they catch small organisms that are in suspension nearby, first by paralyzing them, then by eating them, thus contributing to the survival of the entire colony.
Some Red Sea reefs show an extraordinary concentration of alcionarian especially in the slope of the barrier facing the open sea, or those mainly exposed to the dominating current as they create the best conditions to the prosperity of the colony, by bringing the nutritional substances. It is really amazing, to see, when diving, complete sections of barrier, completely covered by alcionarian of different morphologies and colours; it is interesting to see how they eat with their convected polyps and with their arborescent structure full of water, and how challenge violent currents without any risk of breaking, because of their elastic structure, even more resistant thanks to the calcareous scales that make the stem stronger.
 
These huge aggregations, so complex that seem to challenge the gravity force are either light coloured, bright red, white, yellow, orange, pink or violet, with a variety which is very difficult to describe in words and photography; the latter, in my opinion, can only partially express the beauty of these animals and narrate the emotions arising from these meetings. Even though I posses many images in my files, everytime I meet a particularly beautiful flexible coral I must take a photo. What amazes me is their capacity to settle down pratically on any solid substrate, whether a wreck, an old abandoned  hawser, a coral rock or a skeleton of a dead gorgonian, bringing it to life again. The arboreal and translucent structure of the Dendronephtya species, which transmits light like an optic fiber, that becomes luminescent is the most loved among the underwater photographers of the whole world because it offers them an infinity of starting points.
 
These corals have always given me the sensation to be fragile; when I’m with my cameras, in the oneiric and unreal world of the alcionarian, I’m always careful as I were in an art crystal gallery; the calcareous scales of some of them are of a golden colour and this contributes in rendering these jewels of the Red Sea, even more precious to my eyes.

 

 

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