Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Geologic State Symbols Across America - Hawaii

  The next state up for the Geological State Symbols Across America is:


You can find any of the other states geological symbols on my website here: Dinojim.com (being updated as I go along).

                                                                             Year Established
State Gem: Black Coral                                                1987

I also have some Geology of the National Parks Through Pictures that I have done for Hawaii previously. These include:


State Gem: Black Coral

ACT 9 S.B.NO.411 
A Bill for an Act Relating to the State Gem. 
Be lt Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Hawaii: 

SECTION 1. Chapter 5, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended by adding a new section to be appropriately designated and to read as follows: 

“State gem. The black coral is established and designated as the official gem of the State.” 

SECTION 2. New statutory material is underscored. 

SECTION 3. This Act shall take effect upon its approval. 
(Approved April 22, 1987.)

‘ekaha ku moana, a Hawaiian black coral. Image courtesy of the Garden Island.

Coral is an invertebrate animal that belongs to the group Cnidaria. Cnidaria also includes the well known jelly fish and sea anemones. Corals are a sessile organism, meaning that they live most of their life in one location, mainly rooted to the ocean floor. The coral animal, called a polyp, is a tiny organism that typically secrets a calcium carbonate "shell" around itself, like a clam. The accumulations of many of these shells is what most people think of when they think of coral. Neighboring polyps also secrete a shell and attached themselves to other polyp shells. This creates an apartment building type complex with tiny animals, each about the size of a nickel, living within each shell all attached to one another. Over time the animals die and new corals attach to the upper surfaces creating new structures. The coral animals themselves typically form a symbiosis with an algae called a zooxanthellae, where the algae creates the food from the sunshine and the corals eat the food. The corals then provide the algae with protection within their shell. Corals are generally found within fairly shallow and warm waters. These waters allow many corals to grow and the algae to create food. Over time the coral skeletons/shells can eventually build up and form a reef.

Black coral jewelry, genus Leopathes . Image courtesy of gem-a.com.

Black corals, an Order of corals known as Antipatharia, however have many features that are not "typical" of most corals. Black corals do not form calcium carbonate shells or skeletons, but they create a much softer protein and chitin skeleton. They also do not have the symbiotic zooxanthellae algae. This means that the black corals can live at depths far deeper than most corals, since they don't require the sunlight that provides energy for the algae to create food. They are therefore found at all depths the oceans, but are restricted to salt water environments. Since black corals are not able to obtain food from a symbiote, they must harvest their own food, and are active predators of zooplankton using their stinging tentacles to ensnare and kill them as they swim past. Black corals are also not often black in color, but range in a variety of colors including white, red, green, yellow, brown, and rarely black. The bright colors, as seen in the image above, come from the polyp itself. Once the coral dies, the skeleton, which is black in color, remains behind. Of the ~200 species of black corals found across the world, 15 can be found around Hawaii. To the ancient Hawaiians, the black coral was used as medicine. When ground up it was thought to cure lung issues and diseases of the mouth. In modern day, the black coral was frequently collected and polished for jewelry. However because of over collection and invasive species the black coral has become an endangered species. The Hawaiian government has since put protections in place to save the black coral by limiting which specimens may be collected.


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