Grooved brain coral (Diploria labyrinthiformis) is a species of coral found in many different coral reefs around the world. It looks amazingly like a human brain and has particularly deep grooves that resemble the brain’s folds. In deeper waters, it can even have a grayish appearance.
This species forms large, circular structures that can reach more than 6ft in diameter. Though they appear to be very large, only the outer few millimeters represent living tissue, while the rest is a calcium skeleton. Grooved brain coral structures only grow a few millimeters each year and may be hundreds of years old. Each structure is actually a colony of several genetically identical animals living together called polyps.
Like most shallow-water corals, grooved brain corals have symbiotic algae living within their cells, providing the corals with excess energy that they make via photosynthesis. Nearly all species of shallow-water corals and several other groups of reef invertebrates have symbiotic relationships with these algae, so it is important that they live in clear, shallow water.
Grooved brain corals also filter feed and eat small zooplankton and other prey from the water column. This food provides them with additional energy and provides their algae with the necessary nutrients to continue to generate food.
Though coral bleaching, disease, and pollution all threaten grooved brain coral populations, this species is still relatively common, and scientists believe it to be a species of least concern.