Are Corals Plants, Animals, or Something Else Entirely?

Photo by QUI NGUYEN on Unsplash

Corals are one of the most fascinating forms of life that can be found underwater, and they’re under constant threat due to their delicate nature. Many things about corals left us puzzled over the years, making us wonder if they’re animals, plants, or something else entirely.

Corals are often mistaken as being rocks or plants, but this isn’t scientifically correct. They’re living organisms, unlike rocks, and they’re not capable of making their own food like plants, despite the fact they’re “taking root” to the seafloor and have a plant-like appearance.

It may be hard to believe, given their appearance, but corals are technically animals. They’re made up of many tiny genetically identical polyps, which use their short, tube-like tentacles to grab food from the water. Hundreds or even thousands of polyps can form a single coral, which then goes on to form complex ecosystems known as coral reefs.

In addition to being living organisms who eat, corals also get their energy from other places. They rely on photosynthesis, the process of turning carbon dioxide and water into food, drawing comparisons to plants. That doesn’t mean that corals can photosynthesize like plants—they simply share the food with their algae hosts, providing them with shelter in return.