Any of about 2,300 species of marine cnidarians in the class Anthozoa that are characterized by stonelike, horny, or leathery skeletons (external or internal). The skeletons of these animals are also called coral. Corals are found in warm seas worldwide. The body is of the polyp type. Soft, horny, and blue corals are colonial in habit (i.e., they live in large groups). Stony corals, the most familiar and widely distributed forms, are both colonial and solitary. Atolls and coral reefs, which are composed of stony coral, grow at an average rate of 0.2–1.1 in. (0.5–2.8 cm) per year. See alsosea fan.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on coral, visit Britannica.com.