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Heteropsammia cochlea – Fascinating Walking Dendros Worming their way into Reef Aquariums

Hey all, Cory here.  Ever hear of a coral that walks where it needs to be?  If not, you’re in for a treat as I introduce you to a new arrival, the Walking Dendro.

We just received our first Walking Dendro, Heteropsammia cochlea, last week. At first glance, you may think this was a solitary coral that you would find on the backside of your new Clove Polyp or Mushroom rock. However, upon further inspection, this small coral has a very intricate story.

Walking Dendro Coral is now being imported from Australia for the first time for the aquarium trade. Previously, these corals were imported for research and not so much sale. It may look like a Balanophyllia, but the Walking Dendro is far from a solitary coral.  A symbiotic worm gives it mobility!

Walking DendroThe story begins with a single coral larvae finding a small snail shell on which to attach and begin it’s life. From this point the coral can begin to lay down its structure, quickly overgrowing the shell. For one reason or another a Sipunculid Worm moves into the shell, only to become engulfed and trapped inside the coral. This symbiotic relationship allows for constant movement for the coral and safety for the worm. The coral will have a small hole on the bottom allowing for movement and the uptake of sediment by the worm, preferably a fine sand. The worm is a deposit feeder, taking up sand and consuming nutritious organics found in or on the sand. The coral itself is photosynthetic, but with the presence of tentacles during the day, I would suspect they are also planktonic feeders.

Since there is very little known about this coral, it’s difficulty and hardiness are hard to specify. The coral itself should be easily kept, it is the Sipunculid worm or peanut worm that may be difficult to satisfy.

It is always exciting to see a new coral introduced into the hobby, because it is not only another organism to add to the inventory list, but a learning experience to even the most knowledgeable. As soon as there is any new information regarding the Walking Dendro to report, I will be sure to bring it to you.  Stop in and check them out!

Thanks, Until next time,