|Origin||No Man's Sky|
|Species Type||Land Coral|
|Environment||Joube Valley, Plains of Owvela, Yinfurbing Moor|
|Reproduction||Sexual; release gametes|
|Locomotion||Sessile in adult form|
|Predators||Yinfurbing Tukakak, Zukabergo Wogakak|
|Related Species||Biyfisha Coral, Cave Coral|
Owvela Coral is a species of soft coral-equivalent indigenous to the Plains of Owvela region of Zukabergo-Nama Gusuk, but also found in Joube Valley and Yinfurbing Moor. They are colonial organisms that form tall, stone structures that host a species of microscopic algae-equivalent to provide them with extra energy throughout the day.
They are closely related to the Biyfisha Coral found in Biyfisha Valley, but also seem to be distantly related to the Cave Coral found on the nearby planet of Ilongoqungo and has led credence to the two species evolving from similar species brought to the system by the Aurix thousands of years prior, indicating that their ancestors may not originate in the Euclid Galaxy, at all.
Like the aforementioned Cave Coral, Owvela Coral is quite similar to their Earth-bound counterparts in both physical appearance and overall behavior. For most of their life they are most similar to soft corals, and do not have a hardened, calcium carbonate-like skeleton. Instead as they grow they quickly form spiny, skeletal elements known as sclerites to give the colony some minimal degree of support for the polyps housed within. By avoiding the construction of a fully hardened skeleton they are able to grow much faster than their contemporary Cave Coral—full-sized Owvela Coral colonies were recorded within a month after the great thawing of Zukabergo-Nama Gusuk. In fact, they grow fast enough that an individual, if patient enough, can actually watch them grow a little in real time, over the course of single day. During this period of swift growth, they will incorporate small amounts of sand throughout the structure in order to make it less appealing to potential predators and upon full maturation the entire colony will begin to absorb chemical compounds to convert the otherwise leathery skeleton into a fully calcified structure. This process produces a composite element known as Yimplecoqite that has recently begun to be harvested from the planet as an iron oxide supplement.
Owvela Coral has shown to thrive when bathed in radiation and actually goes into a torpor hibernation in lack of a sufficient supply of it, explaining why the species was not known during its homeworld's last glaciation phase. Like Cave Coral, it has formed a symbiosis with a Chlorolomba-like microorganism to allow photosynthesis to take place. Because of the irradiated condition of the planet, this potential Chlorolomba descendant is perhaps the hardiest of the species yet known. Even so, the polyps that make up a colony are opportunistic and will readily attempt to consume any free-floating food such as aeroplankton. An indeterminate number of tiny species can be seen crawling throughout the structures, using it as a habitat from which to better survive. One Gek researcher, Geelon, has taken clippings from the species with hopes that it can be properly introduced into the galactic terrarium markets.
For much of their lives they are sessile organisms. Despite the appearance of being a large leathery (and later stony) structure, it is in fact the colonial skeleton of thousands of tiny polyps. This skeleton is initially composed of sclerites, but once the colony has reached sufficient size, nutrients are reabsorbed and replaced with an iron-carbon composite known as Yimplecoqite to harden it to a tough exterior. Within these structures, the polyps themselves sit within small cup-shaped depressions known as corallites.
The polyps are able to deform their own bodies to retract into their corallites, but can also rely on stingers equipped on the tips of their tentacles to strike at would-be predators. These organisms are so small this rarely effects larger sapient species, and give the polyps a sandpapery feel to them when an exposed hand is ran across them. Like Cave Coral, Owvela Coral have developed twenty-fold radial symmetry. Their mouth is formed as a horned beak similar to those seen in cephalopods, and is surrounded by their many tentacles. When not deformed and retracted, their tentacles are cylindrical and taper to a point, but are surrounded by a screw-like whorl of tiny, fleshy extensions known as pinnules. Owvela Coral are primarily nocturnal, and tend to only emerge from their shelter to feed after Yepreckerts has set, thus lowering the overall irradiation level to a manageable level. Those found out of direct starlight are more likely to be active all day long. Interestingly, these cavern-bound members of the species have less algae-equivalent symbionts than those at the surface, as they cannot support them as easily.
Polyps are interconnected by their coenosarc, which is a complex and well-developed system of gastrovascular canals that allow for the transfer of nutrients between individuals.
Owvela Corals are strictly filter-feeders, feeding on aeroplankton that floats freely through the air, although they will not hesitate to try and mindlessly feed on anything that comes in contact with them (though this will prove unsuccessful to larger lifeforms). They may occasionally take a small creature roaming across the surface of the colony but most species so far researched that utilize them as a home are immune or at least resistant to this. Those that the polyps can take are subdued using their tentacle spines and are then fed upon by the predatory polyp and its adjacent neighbors for some days with their beaks. Their spines carry trace amounts of neurotoxin that rapidly subdue anything small that they can pierce. The tentacles are then used to move the prey to the beak if sufficient in size, or grooves in the beak will be used to periodically scrape off the tentacle filaments of microscopic organisms. Their digestive system is U-shaped, and any remains they cannot digest are simply regurgitated to get carried away by the winds.
The species has a mutualistic symbiosis with a species of microscopic algae-equivalents. These algae are given protection within the coral's skeletal shell and extract some of their host's waste chemicals for their own processes, while providing them with energy extracted via photosynthesis, and may actually aid in their calcification process. Generally speaking, a shocking 27% of the organic material within a colony may be algae.
In terms of extreme stress, Owvela Corals can violently eject their algae symbionts in a process known as a "green misting". These green mistings are so powerful that they can be heard from up to 20 yards away and can be physically felt as a light "shock wave". This ultimately kills the algae as it cannot survive the toxins of the local atmosphere unabated but may save the coral colony itself. However, Atlas sentinels usually keep these corals in check to make sure this balance is not disturbed and as such this event is a rare occurrence to witness in the modern age.
Recent studies have shown some genetic link may exist between it and the Chlorolomba found on the planet Vuunega. This is an interesting find, as Vuunega and Zukabergo-Nama Gusuk are in different galaxies yet this seems to indicate that the Aurix may have visited the planet in the past.
On multiple occasions, the coral has been found to form a base around a Honeycomb Nemone; no research has yet been done to determine whether this is coincidence (such as the Nemone happening to attach itself to an area where hibernating Owvela Coral tuns were located) or if there is an actual form of symbiosis going on here. As the two species are distantly related, either are equally possible.
Owvela Coral is both unisexual and hermaphroditic, and each is able to reproduce both sexually as well as asexually. This allows them to quickly reestablish themselves after a glacial thaw, an event that is beginning to look to researchers as a natural occurrence on the planet at regular intervals.
Predominately and in optimal conditions, Owvela Coral will reproduce sexually. Each colonial branch will have clusters of genders, based upon the areas where each original colonial member started and branching out. At the windiest times of the year, each of these genders will release clouds of gametes in tandem. Minimal environmental cues are necessary, but consist of the strength of the wind, time of the day, and the levels of ambient toxins and radiation in the air. When these match ideal conditions, all coral in the given area will release their material, which will fuse mid-air and form zygotes that quickly develop into new, temporarily mobile polyps known as paratropos, a planula-like larval stage that is elliptical in shape and has developed a parachute-like bell that helps carry them across the globe. Several hundred thousand of these polyps are assumed to be produced by each colony every year, although if they are anything like Cave Coral, very few of these would make it to maturity. While some may be taken by small predators such as the larval stages of certain Skyleech species, most likely perish due to high levels of toxins, too high or low levels of irradiation, or not enough iron deposits in the surrounding soil.
These Paratropos are also attracted towards existing colonies should they find themselves landing near one, and will steer themselves to one as best they can to begin another branch of a colony. Although they have little say in their trajectory or landing path are are really mostly at the whim of the winds, those that land on existing colonies have a far better chance of survival than those that are forced to start colonies anew.
An interesting aspect of Owvela Coral sexual broadcasting is that should different species cast their gametes on the same night, these can fuse together to form hybridized species, thus creating a very easy path of evolution for the group.
The Paratropo planulae exhibit chemosensitivity, and will try to move into areas with proper irradiation levels. They will usually avoid areas with perpetual shade, but this is not always the case, which may be more due to their weak movement control than an actual desire to land in such locations. High failure rates are common throughout these motile cycles, and only a few will live long enough to join an existing or start a new colony. During this time, they will evolve from parachute-equipped paratropos, into a polyp, and finally into a truly mature coral head. This process usually only takes a day or two, but sometimes they can accidentally enter the air stream. Those that do have been known to become trapped here for a few months. Those stuck in the air stream are similar to occasionally become trapped there as seen in Cave Coral, which can become trapped in the air stream for upwards of a decade. A few individuals have been collected by research scoops between Zukabergo-Nama Gusuk and Sacowitchi Iefalt, though none have been found to be alive at the time of collection. It is assumed that they cannot survive the vacuum of space, but even if they could, surviving reentry into Sacowitchi's atmosphere is more than likely to burn them up.
Initially after a glacial thaw, the tuns formed from the hibernating polyps will very quickly begin to reproduce via budding. Budding only takes an individual 12 minutes, and under optimal conditions a single hibernating polyp can produce a small colony of 120 clones within a single 24 hour period. This process is also utilized to replaced deceased members once a colony has been properly established. The parent coral will split longitudinally (down the middle) and each half will grow farther and farther apart until they are completely separated; this involves a division of its body, known as the coelenteron, starting with the mouth and tentacles and separating down the rest of the body. Under normal conditions this usually takes about 8 days to complete, but the process is sped up significantly when a new colony is established; it should be noted that such swift energy expenditures does lead to a greatly diminished overall lifespan in the colony starters, but both speeds allow for a high reproductive and success rate.