It’s no secret that we hold the uniquely special Hero coral, Turbinaria heronensis, in a special place of our reef aquarium heart. That’s why it warms us to learn that our good friends at Carolina Aquatics, purveyor of our beloved Turbinaria bifrons, has landed a very unusual colony of the fabled hero coral.
We know from images documenting T. heronensis in Corals of the World that there exists a predominantly branching growth form of Hero coral but up to now nearly all the colonies we’ve seen have been of the plating, and semi branching variety. The very atypical colony that Carolina Aquatics shared with us is so branchy that it has all but abandoned any form of a plating coral.
This singular colony of T. heronensis looks more or less like the crazy love-child of a Turbinaria heronensis and a Duncanopsammia. This begs the question then, is it possible for Dendrophyllid corals to hybridize across generic ‘boundaries’? If so this particular coral is precisely what we’d imagine the cross of a a hero coral and a duncan coral to look like if they did hybridize.
Before we get too far ahead of ourselves regarding coral hybridization, it’s important to note that the majority of specimens of Turbinaria heronensis documented in Veron’s books show the mostly arborescent variety, and it’s only in the aquarium trade that Hero corals have been primarily of the plating variety.
We don’t have to be sure of this Hero coral’s place on the tree of life to be certain that it is a prime candidate for aquarium propagation. Compared to the plating hero corals which suggest no dotted line on which to frag and cut them, this branching T. heronensis is just begging to be fragged like a fuzzy stick Acro, and it’s very likely that this particular coral will see daughter colonies spread far and wide in aquarium circles.