While on a deep dive on the ocean side of Kwajalein Atoll, we came face to face with a pair of chalice corals with a striking look unlike any we have seen in aquariums, or in the wild. With a single prominent central corallite and a bony appearance dominated by large and prominent septa, these one and two-eyed chalices have a very unique bony quality, and the colored specimen was bordering on jaw dropping.
At four and three inches across respectively, the two evil looking one eyed chalices don’t really fit the description for any known species of Oxypora or Echinomorpha but it does seem to fit what little is known from a recently described species of Echinophyllia tarae. While that new species was described from the Gambier Islands, our specimens were discovered over 4500 miles away, in the Marshall Islands.
At 110 feet deep, the color of the visible light is noticeably attenuated to the blue end of the spectrum, giving the habitat a natural actinic color making all fluorescent colors pop. The first of these bony chalices was nearly black and white, but the second specimen sighted only 20 feet from the first one had a single central corallite and a brilliant red coloration dominating the entire corallite.
The red color was so dominant in this latter specimen that it took some extreme white-balancing to make the image come out true to life, and leaving only the oral disc shining a brilliant ruby red. If you’re a diehard coral collector, a brilliant color of a newly described species is about as rare as it gets – it was truly a treat to enjoy these two corals in their natural environment.