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Coral feeding game

Do you know how corals get their energy? Try and model how most corals change from getting their energy from photosynthesis via the zooxanthellae, to using their tentacles and stinging cells to catch zooplankton (microscopic animals, larvae and eggs).

Ages 7+

15 minutes

Corals get their energy in two different ways. This fun game will explain both, and help you to understand how a static coral can feed on detritus in the water.

Activity steps

  1. Put on a glove.
  2. Mark the gloved back of the hand with green dots using stickers or a green marker pen. These dots represent the algae (zooxanthellae) within the coral polyp.
  3. Stick squares of double-sided sticky tape around each gloved finger. The stickiness represents the stinging cells on each tentacle / finger.
  4. Create a sleeve out of the paper bag or paper that fits your hand. This represents the corallite or limestone cup that the polyp lives in.
  5. The gloved hands will be closed into a fist during the day. This protects the tentacles from predators, and the algae (zooxanthellae) will still be exposed to sunlight, which provides the coral with between 70% and 90% of its energy via photosynthesis.
  6. At night, the polyps open up and feed on zooplankton. If you are in a group, sitting next to someone else, you could represent a small coral colony.
  7. Close your eyes and get ready to try to catch zooplankton with your fingers. One of your team members can scatter cotton wool (representing zooplankton) over each coral colony.
  8. Open your eyes to see how much zooplankton you have caught.

Safety guidance

  • Check there are no allergies to the glove material.

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