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The Hawaiian gold coral (Kulamanamana haumeaae) is a deep sea zoanthid coral found on seamounts throughout the Hawaiian archipelago at depths of 343 m - 575 m.  Known mostly because of its beauty and rareness as a gem coral, it has been collected since the 1970s for the jewelry industry (referred to as genus Gerardia, a synonym of Savalia), but was not scientifically described until 2013.  Molecular evidence indicates that Hawaiian gold coral belongs in its own genus. 

Hawaiian gold coral grows in a fan shape, up to 1 meter (3 feet) in height.  Its skeleton ranges between golden yellow and orange in color, with polyp color, when living, bright yellow to orange.  Polyps will flash with bioluminescence and produce copious mucus when disturbed. 

Since 2001, the fishing industry for Hawaiian gold coral has been restricted to a point where it is no longer cost effective to collect it.  The coral, which grows to a large size and in large numbers of individuals, dominates the coral biomass in its depth range and habitat, and is now recognized for its importance in its ecosystem.  Furthermore, recent dating studies show that K. haumeaae is one of the longest-living species on earth, with some individuals determined as 2740 years of age, growing at tremendously slow rates of about 15-45 micrometers in radius/year. 

Hawaiian gold coral, like other corals in its family (Parazoanthidae), is epizoic, specifically associated with bamboo corals (Isididae; Octocorallia).  It is unclear whether K. haumeaae colonizes host skeletons once its host has died, or whether it parasitizes it, competing for resources (as do some closely related Savalia species).  Recent studies suggest that the speciation and radiation of parazoanthid corals is driven by their close host relationships, and the biology behind these host/epizoid interactions are the subject of understanding a newly-discovered diversity of deep-sea octocorals; four other genera of which were collected and described in the same scientific publication as K. haumeaae (Sinniger et al. 2013).

(Sinniger, Ocaña and Baco 2013, and references cited within)


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