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Fire Coral Facts

Taxonomy [Phylum: Cnidaria] [Class: Hydrozoa] [Family: Milleporidae] [Order: Capitata]

Branching Fire Corals - Snorkelers are discouraged from touching the reef but recognizing and avoiding the fifty identified species of venomous fire coral could save you a painful sting, cut, or allergic reaction.

In fact, that is a little more difficult than it sounds because the toxic marine organisms are not 'technically' a coral even though the small brush-like growths are found in tropical and subtropical seas.

Calcareous species of fire corals belong with Hydra, some hydrozoan anemones, and jellyfish. This is why these venomous coelenterates and their fire coral sting cause fire coral rash and skin irritation.

Nonetheless, most fire corals exhibit a similar colonial existence as its namesake but accidental contact with this fiery aquatic life should be avoided when scuba diving or snorkel swimming.

What is Fire Coral Millepora?

In fact, the fire coral scientific name is Millepora and you are most likely to find these fire corals concealed on shallow reef formations in the Caribbean Sea, the Pacific, Indian, and the Atlantic Oceans.

They are non-mobile and predominantly form forking outcrops on reef projections in areas with strong tidal currents and perhaps most abundant on the upper slopes of lagoons.

Recognizing Branching Fire Coral

Knowing how to distinguish fire coral is a tad tricky for the untrained eye because it cunningly disguises itself in shapes and colours similar to the regular branching species.

Its skeletal encrusted form may even appear bladed, plated, or boxy. But in actuality almost all fire coral is differentiated by its brownish-green or orange color and attention-getting white tips as seen in the picture above.

Another distinguishing factor is its transparent stingers. They are usually visible and tend to stick out like hair-like cactus spines. This is where the fire coral's painful sting comes from. Brushing against the spines with uncovered skin is how most stings occur for divers without wetsuits, and bare-skinned swimmers or snorkelers.

Stinging Fire Coral Facts

Fire Coral Picture [Calcareous hydrozoans]In fact, injuries from fire corals are commonly identified as cuts, skin rashes, or red welts.

Fire coral rash is intensely painful but the stings do not normally start to burn immediately after contact.

Typically, it takes five to thirty minutes after being stung and the agony may last between two to fourteen days afterwards.

Similar to jellyfish, the damage is done by tiny nematocysts protruding from numerous surface pores and tentacles.

The calcified external skeleton is also sharp enough to cause minor lacerations and scrapes on unprotected skin.

Fire Coral Sting Treatment

Even though you now understand more about fire coral facts, the best antidote is to seek medical advice if you get injured. Nevertheless, the standard coral rash treatment involves trying to treat a fire coral burn immediately after as well as during the actual healing process.

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