The stinging power of corals

Corals as beautiful as they are, they have powerful sources of defense.
To handle these species, we must take into account their degree of virulence.
Biologists who classify living things (animals, fungi, bacteria and plants), have grouped corals with jellyfish and anemones in a group of animals called cnidarians. This means “nettle, stinging” in Greek. This is due to the presence of specialized cells with venom glands, the cnidocytes, in all these aquatic animals.
It can happen that a diver accidentally touches a coral containing venom sacs with a powerful stinging effect.
The injuries are often benign, but if it is a fire coral, vigilance is strongly advised. The fire coral is a species located in tropical waters. It is part of a large genus Millepora.
This one causes important burns. In some cases, the burn can be accompanied by nausea, but these are not the majority of cases. If this happens to you, you can limit the infection by cleaning the area with salt water and disinfecting.
A report of the ANSES (National Agency of Sanitary Safety of food, environment and work) led by professionals, shows several cases of intoxication occurred after handling corals. Whether by respiratory, cutaneous or ocular route, the toxicity of corals can reach us.
Do not hesitate to wear PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) which are able to reduce the risk of contamination. Gloves and goggles are the minimum equipment needed to move a coral.
Generally, aquarists are the most exposed to this risk, especially amateurs with little knowledge of all possible risks.
Moreover, some corals live in symbiosis with algae which also produce defense molecules. This will be the subject of one of our next articles.