Legacy from the Red Sea
The large Brain coral (Platygyra lamellina) in the coral showcase at the MEERESMUSEUM is quite a splendid specimen and is a reminder of an entertaining anecdote from the 60-year history of the German Oceanographic Museum. This is because the Brain coral, which today is one of the top exhibits in the coral collection, was a special gift from colleagues for the 50th birthday of the former museum director and "father" of the German Maritime Museum, Dr Sonnfried Streicher. It was collected in 1979 by museum scientists during the ACROPORA expedition in the Red Sea conducted at that time and was dedicated to the leader of the trip.
Reminiscent of the brain of a vertebrate, the coral colony can reach a diameter of over two metres. The colony is the common calcareous skeleton of hundreds of coral polyps living together with unicellular algae in a symbiotic relationship. Due to the photosynthesis powered by the algae the occurrence of such large coral is limited to near-surface and thus light-filled water layers.
Due to the slow growth typical for coral of two to twelve centimetres per year, the communities are often jeopardised by external intervention. People engage passively or actively in the life of these ancient sea creatures by altering, for example flow conditions when building ports or the coral are torn away by fishing nets. Presently the occurrence and distribution of corals is quite stable, but it seems only a matter of time, until their unique ecosystems are lost.