I had the opportunity of photographing this huge Brain Coral while visiting the island of Cubagua. The smallest of three islands which make up the Venezuelan state of Nueva Esparta, in South America.
Brain coral is a common name given to corals in the family Mussidae, so called due to their generally spheroid shape and grooved surface which resembles a brain.
Each head of coral is formed by a colony of genetically identical polyps which secrete a hard skeleton of calcium carbonate; this makes them important coral reef builders.
Brain corals are found in shallow warm-water coral reefs in all the world's oceans. They belong to a class called Anthozoa or "flower animals". The lifespan of the largest brain corals is 900 years. Colonies can grow as large as 1.8 m (6 ft) or more in height.
Brain corals extend their tentacles to catch food at night. During the day, they use their tentacles for protection by wrapping them over the grooves on their surface. The surface is hard and offers good protection against fish or hurricanes.
Like other genera of corals, brain corals feed on small drifting animals, and also receive nutrients provided by the algae which live within their tissues.