Friday mystery object #360 answer (not really)

Last week I gave you a specimen with a radial arrangement to mark the 360th mystery object:


It’s a stony coral of some sort, as everyone in the comments recognised. The shape also suggests that it’s a solitary coral, as it forms one cup containing the radial arrangement of septa.

I picked this specimen as it’s one on the (currently inaccessible) balcony in the Dead Zoo and I was a bit doubtful about the identification on the label (see below).


I must admit, I did liked the idea of this being a giant Caryophillia smithi, since that’s the Devonshire Cup Coral and the previous mystery object was a Cornish Sucker, so I thought it would be nice to do a tour around the Southwest of England in specimens.

However, I don’t think that’s possible, since Devonshire Cup Corals are much smaller than this (up to a maximum of about 25mm across). I also harbour doubts that this specimen was collected in S.W. Ireland, so I think there may have been a mix up with the labels. This can happen for a variety of reasons, but most commonly when an object gets temporarily moved and not put back with the right label.

The specimen does look like one of the Caryophylliidae, although corals are notoriously difficult to identify as different families can converge on very similar forms. There is a great key dealing with stony corals that should shed some light on this, but unfortunately I’ve not had a chance to put it to use yet.

At some point I will need to go through all of the labels in the exhibitions at the Dead Zoo to check the accuracy, since most are over 100 years out of date and changes in taxonomy mean that the majority of labels on display will have some kind of error now. With around 10,000 specimens on display this is not a job that can be done overnight…

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