Nominating an animal is the natural choice for most staff – but not for Jessica W., a biologist at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre. She says, “I am so excited that a plant was picked this time for Staff Pick of the Month!”

Coralline algae on a rock behind a rock greenling.

Coralline algae grow on a rock behind this rock greenling.

Jessica nominated coralline algae (Family Corallinaceae) of which there are many types. These algae have calcium carbonate in their cell walls that make them stiff and crusty, and they cover the surface on which they grow, whether rocks or snail shells. Coralline means coral-like, however these organisms are plants and not animals like other true corals.

Jessica W. is a biologist at the Vancouver Aquarium.

Jessica W. is a biologist at the Vancouver Aquarium.

As one of the biologists responsible for the exhibits showcasing aquatic life off the coast of B.C. at both the Aquarium and the Vancouver International Airport, Jessica says she’s lucky to see these plants every day, “They make me happy. The colour is so vibrant and amazing.”

Despite their bright pink colour, coralline algae tend to fade into the background. Jessica says they are easily missed by visitors because they look like part of the rocks. But she reminds us of their importance in marine ecosystems from Alaska to Mexico: “They’re living, growing things that provide places for other plants to grow on.”

Be sure to keep an eye out for the brightly coloured coralline algae on your next visit to the Vancouver Aquarium, or the Vancouver International Airport.

Written by Karen Horak, writer-editor, content and digital experience at the Vancouver Aquarium.

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