Convict chalice corals are specimens of Echinophyllia plating colonies with a very distinctive series of stripes running usually from the edge of the oral disc (mouth) to the colonie’s edges. The lines of convict chalice corals can be very dark, or very bright, but either form gives these uniquely colored corals a very startling appearance, and makes them very desirable among chalice coral collectors.
Since convict chalice corals are all the rage in the aquarium world right now, we were very excited to observe a single colony on our first dive of many in the Flores Sea, Indonesia last month. We were able to observe countless species of chalice corals around Flores and Komodo Islands, being represented mostly by Mycedium and Echinophyllia species, but this startling convict chalice coral is the only such colony we encountered.
Being a keen coral photo-hunter means looking in every nook and cranny of the reef and at a depth of 70 feet or just a little over 20 meters, we sighted this unique white-striped, green convict chalice Echinophyllia coral growing basically at the very bottom of the reef, right before the rock structure met the sandy zone. The colony was situated in a depression within the rock, with some degree of structure above it so it was getting the barest modicum of light levels, even for being at a depth where the light is already, considerably attenuated.
Despite the relative darkness of this environment, this convict chalice coral was in great health. Corals that were observed growing in close proximity included Leptoseris, Madracis and Stylocoeniella while nearby corals exposed to more direct lighting included various species of smooth skin Acropora. Using the blue-LED equipped focusing light we were diving with, we managed to capture both daylight and actinic light photographs of this exciting coral, perhaps the first ever such pictures of this coral strain in its natural environment.