The Organ Pipe Coral (Tubipora musica)

This first ‘Specimen of the Month’ for 2022 is the organ pipe coral (Tubipora musica). This specimen is of great significance to the UNE Natural History Museum; it was collected as part of the first coral survey ever conducted in Australia by the ‘godfather of coral’ Charlie Veron and his colleagues who conducted the 1973 survey at the Solitary Islands just off the coast from Coffs Harbour when they were students at UNE. The collection showcases a total of one hundred and seventy-seven different coral specimens, which museum staff and volunteers are currently sorting and photographing.

This specimen of organ pipe coral is the only one within our Solitary Islands collection. The organ pipe coral is also the only species within the genus Tubipora. It’s found on warm reef slopes of the Pacific and Indian oceans, and can grow up to 30 cm high and 60 cm wide. Corals are colonial animals; the corals skeleton is inhabited by clusters of tiny animals known as polyps. These vary across different coral species, but for the organ pipe coral, each polyp has eight blue-green tentacles. This colouration in combination with the red coral skeleton gives them a green, blue or purple appearance when seen underwater. Due to the vibrant colours, the skeleton of this coral is often used for jewellery and ornaments. They living coral is also popular in aquariums as it requires little maintenance and exhibits high tolerances to various environmental conditions. This has led to some conservation problems for the species; the organ pipe coral was classified as Near Threatened in 2008 by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) due to over-extraction in some parts of its range.


Shaelynn Hernando and Tamara Kermode