Polyps Up Close

animation of polyp anatomy

Most corals are made up of hundreds of thousands individual polyps like this one. Many stony coral polyps range in size from one to three millimeters in diameter. Anatomically simple organisms, much of the polyp's body is taken up by a stomach filled with digestive filaments. Open at only one end, the polyp takes in food and expels waste through its mouth. A ring of tentacles surrounding the mouth aids in capturing food, expelling waste and clearing away debris. Most food is captured with the help of special stinging cells called nematocysts which are inside the polyp' outer tissues, which is called the epidermis. Calcium carbonate is secreted by reef-building polyps and forms a protective cup called a calyx within which the polyps sits. The base of the calyx upon which the polyp sits is called the basal plate. The walls surrounding the calyx are called the theca. The coenosarc is a thin band of living tissue that connect individual polyps to one another and help make it a colonial organism.

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