Biological Warfare Underwater, Contra Costa Times, 06/08/06
By Karl Mondon
The magic fingers of a sea anenome massage a Spine Cheek Clownfish in the 18-foot deep living coral reef display at the California Academy of Sciences in downtown San Francisco.
Visitors may ooh and ahh at the colorful beauty of coral reef life but it's a Montipora vs. Echinopora kind of world down there.
The two coral species are biochemical-spewing foes whose placement in the world's deepest living coral display requires careful consideration.
"It's not the tranquil and peaceful environment that most people imagine it to be," says Bart Shepherd, curator of the Calfornia Academy of Sciences, describing the sinister side of the world's living coral reefs.
If a rival coral such as Echinopora lamellosa was placed next to a Montipora digitata, well, you'd have a salt-water version of the Hatfields and McCoys with phenols and turpines instead of shotguns.
"There is chemical and biological warfare going on down there," he said Tuesday as he carefully cemented a Montipora coral to a support rock in downtown San Francisco.
Shepherd is responsible for keeping peace among the competitive polyps basking under 1,000-watt metal halide lamps in 46 white plastic tanks on Howard Street.
They're waiting there for their new home to open in late 2008 at the reconstructed Steinhart Aquarium in Golden Gate Park's Academy of Sciences.
With the help of 100 volunteer, glue-toting divers, Shepherd will direct the creation of a 25-foot deep, 212,000 gallon reef neighborhood.