Sunday, 18 November 2012

The Giant Sea Fan of Niue

To pay  tribute to the giant sea fan (Annella mollis),  Niue  Post  pleased to issue the special stamp series that   feature  a coral found throughout Niue’s picturesque coral reefs. It has been released as part of the WWF Conservation Stamp Collection on September 5, 2012.

Each of the four gummed stamps in this issue features the official WWF logo and they are presented together on the miniature sheet. The background of the miniature sheet gives a close-up view of a giant sea fan, and is a beautiful addition to the stamp collection.

The giant sea fan is a soft coral (Octocorallia) and belongs to the class of flower animals (Anthozoa). Its fans measure up to two metres. In this case, the ramifications are braided together and adopt the appearance of a network, whose peaks are barely distinct.Colonies are colored red to shades of pale yellow, but when the polyps are open, it seems tinged with orange-red. The ramifications are issued in a single plane.

Giant sea fans can be found at depths of around 10 to 50 metres. The fans of these large gorgonians are always oriented perpendicular to the direction of the currents, in order to capture as much as possible plankton. Polyps only flourish fully only at night.
During the day, they are deployed sporadically: cloudy day, for example, or when plankton is abundant. Giant sea fan are food and shelter to many marine animals, some of which hide in the branches and take on the coloration of these corals.
Giant sea fan found on coral and rocky reefs in areas of slow currents, also very turbid areas often branching out from vertical walls. This soft coral is  widespread species in Indo-Pacific.

Giant sea fan do not produce calcium carbonate skeletons, but instead contain minute, spiny skeletal elements called sclerites

Sclerites  give these corals some degree of support and protection against predators. Since there is no true skeleton, their bodies are flexible. 

Miniature-Sheet (6)

Niue’s warm, clear waters make it an ideal environment to spot giant sea fans. The atoll is made entirely of porous limestone and has no lakes or streams. 

Therefore rain filters quickly through the island into the sea, and there is no sediment in the water, resulting in water clarity that is ranked amongst the best in the world.

Countless tourists visit Niue year after year to experience the spectacular marine life on offer.

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