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The Octocorallia include blue coral, soft corals, sea pens, and gorgonians (sea fans and sea whips).

This is composed either of a fibrous protein called gorgonin or of a calcified material.

In both stony and soft corals, the polyps can be retracted, with stony corals relying on their hard skeleton and cnidocytes for defence against predators, with soft corals generally relying on chemical defences in the form of toxic substances present in the tissues known as terpenoids.

Each polyp is a sac-like animal typically only a few millimeters in diameter and a few centimeters in length.

A set of tentacles surround a central mouth opening. Over many generations, the colony thus creates a large skeleton that is characteristic of the species.

Corals are marine invertebrates in the class Anthozoa of phylum Cnidaria.

They typically live in compact colonies of many identical individual polyps.

In soft corals, there is no stony skeleton but the tissues are often toughened by the presence of tiny skeletal elements known as sclerites, which are made from calcium carbonate.