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CORALS, ANEMONES, JELLYFISH (Cnidaria)
Biodiversity > Marine Life > Corals, anemones, jellyfish

These are a diverse group of invertebrate animals that all possess stinging nematocysts - they include jellyfish, Bluebottles, anemones and corals.

Reef-building corals are the most conspicuous cnidarians you will see at Lord Howe Island. These corals extract calcium, carbon and oxygen from their marine environment, and combine these elements into a rigid, hard skeleton of calcium carbonate. Soft corals are related to hard corals and often compete strongly with hard corals for space on reefs.

A coral colony grows by asexual budding to produce identical polyps, and the precise manner in which this takes place determines the coral's final shape, which can be encrusting, massive or branching.

Anemones are similar to corals but lack a hard skeleton, and can also reproduce asexually by budding into two individuals.

Corals, anemones and many other cnidarians also reproduce sexually, where eggs and sperm are released by hermaphrodite, female or male animals. After fertilisation occurs, a free-swimming planula larva develops, which eventually settles down onto the substratum and metamorphoses into a polyp form.

Other cnidarians such as jellyfish have a more complex life cycle involving distinct polyp and medusa phases.

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