One of the most unique creatures in the universe is coral, which comes in a vast array of shapes, sizes and types. While tiny individually, coral is the foundation of one of the most dramatic and colorful aspects of ocean life. Coral reefs are home to billions of individuals and millions of species. With such diversity, they are reserved for their own article. This article will focus solely on corals and how they defy evolutionary dogma.
Corals are very interesting creatures. They are similar to jellyfish which I’ve written about previously here, here, and here. However, unlike jellyfish, coral does not spend most of its life in the medusa, or free floating stage. Instead, coral spends the majority of its life in the polyp stage, attached to something hard. Most corals live in colonies of hundreds or thousands of individuals. The largest colonies tend to be the hard or stony corals, while the soft corals tend to occur in smaller groups.
Hard coral is what we typically think of when we think of coral reefs. These corals live in massive colonies of thousands, sometimes even millions of individuals. In order to support the weight of this many individuals, these corals produce calcium carbonate as part of their body. When a polyp dies, the calcium carbonate calcite, which supports the polyp and helps keep it upright, is left behind. Other polyps will then build their calcites atop the ones left behind, eventually building a reef. By contrast, soft coral does not deposit calcium carbonate en mass. Instead, when a polyp dies, it is not replaced. The soft corals are not reef builders. Their function is ancillary to the survival of a reef as a whole.
Corals come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes but all share some similarities. All are members of phylum Cnidaria, just like the aforementioned jellyfish. All corals spend the majority of their lives as polyps, which are basically upside down jellyfish attached by a stalk to a hard surface. These polyps are quite small, usually less than an inch or so across. However, like their jellyfish relatives, corals come equipped with potent stings, which they use to trap prey. The usual prey for most corals is zooplankton, though they are known to target small invertebrates and tiny fish, particularly at night. Despite their deadly stings, most corals do not rely on their stings to feed them. Instead corals have a mutualistic relationship with algae referred to as zooxanthellae. These algae take the energy from sunlight and perform photosynthesis to produce food for themselves and the corals. In return, the corals provide the zooxanthellae with shelter. This relationship keeps both creatures alive and well fed. It is the zooxanthellae which give corals their color. Like jellyfish, corals are largely translucent alone, but when the zooxanthellae are added to the equation, corals produce a stunning display of color.
Corals reproduce in numerous different ways. Some corals undergo asexual reproduction. One such method is called budding. In this method, a large coral polyp develops a much smaller one from its side, which eventually detaches and forms its own polyp. A second asexual reproduction method is called fragmentation. This method of reproduction occurs when a coral colony is broken apart, either naturally or otherwise. Provided the pieces come to rest in the right environment, each piece can form an entirely new colony. Many corals also undergo sexual reproduction. The most common form of this is external fertilization, typified by the mass spawning events some reefs undergo. In mass spawning, the entire reef, or most of it, release their gametes at exactly the same time on the same day, usually night. The sheer mass of gametes released ensures that many will escape predation and survive to create fertilized medusa stage corals. Some corals bypass the external fertilization and carry their eggs themselves on the edge of their polyps. Their male counterparts release sperm into the water that settles onto the outside of the coral and fertilize the eggs.
Corals provide multiple challenges to evolutionary theory. The first comes from their ability to secrete calcium carbonate. The ability to build reefs provides shelter for billions of individual creatures, yet evolutionists claim it is purely accidental. Further, the mutualistic symbiotic relationship corals share with the zooxanthellae could not have evolved. Both creatures rely completely on the other to survive. When coral expel their zooxanthellae, an event known as bleaching, they die. This symbiotic relationship had to have been designed. It could not have come into play by random chance. Nor could the mass spawning events have come about randomly. The fact that most species of unrelated coral all spawn simultaneously on the same night to give their progeny the best chance of avoiding predators could not have originated from a short sighted, random process such as evolution. They had to have been designed to have been coordinated so precisely. A Designer is the only answer for the existence of coral.