The Secret Life of Corals

Retail Price: $29.95

Direct Price: $27.95

Sex, War and Rocks that Don’t Roll
By David E. Vaughan, PhD
Hardcover, 6×9, 272 pages
ISBN: 978-1-60427-188-1
e-ISBN: 978-1-60427-836-1
November 2022

ISBN: 978-1-60427-188-1 Category:


When we think of coral reefs we tend to think of beautiful rock-like structures teaming with colorful fish and other marine life. But what exactly are the “corals” in the coral reef? What are these creatures that start out very small and then have the ability to grow large enough to be seen from outer space? Are they animals, plants, microbes, or rocks?

With humor and clarity, David Vaughan takes us on an incredible journey through the secret life of corals to answer these questions, and more. He shines a light on the unlikely partners that comprise actual corals and reveals the curious ways they live, grow, reproduce, protect themselves and defend their turf. In addition, Vaughan helps us understand why corals are so important for all life—both on land and in the sea. This generational title clearly explains the most pressing environmental threats corals face today, as well as new coral restoration practices that provide hope for their future.

This book is a compelling and fun read and is for everyone interested in the marvelous workings of the natural world. Dive in and prepare to be amazed!

Key Features

  • First-ever entertaining and comprehensive overview of how corals live, reproduce, grow, and defend themselves and their turf
  • Details how corals are actually a combination of four unlikely partners—the animal, plants, microbes, and minerals—that work together in a curious fashion to create these amazing creatures
  • Discusses the impacts of climate change on corals, with special attention to how each partner of the coral is affected in different ways
  • Delivers a vivid and enjoyable description of the lifecycle of corals and how they reproduce both sexually and asexually
  • Explains why corals are important to life, both under the sea and on land, and how our human existence is actually linked to theirs
  • Offers hope for the future with a discussion of cutting-edge techniques for coral restoration
  • A portion of all sales of the book will go to replanting corals around the world

Table of Contents


Introduction: Dave’s Journey

Part I—What Is a Coral?

1 • The Importance of Coral Reefs

2 • What Exactly Is a Coral?

3 • Animal: The Coral Polyp

4 • Plant: The Algae Within

5 • Microbe: Immunity from the Outside In

6 • Mineral: Caught Between a “Rock and a Hard Place”

7 • Coral Growth, the Odyssey from Larvae to Reef

Part II—Sex, War, and Rocks that Don’t Roll

8 • The Fossil Record—How Fast Is the Slow Growth of Coral?

9 • Coral Sex and Bundles of Joy

10 • A Deep Dive into Sexual Strategies

11 • The Fantastic Journey and Search for the First and Final Home

12 • Coral Wars—Slow Motion Fighting with Specialized Weapons

13 • Cosmic Inner Space and Deepwater Corals

14 • Community Communication

Part III—A New Hope for Corals

15 • Yesterday’s Extinctions: Five Previous Episodes of Coral Hide-and-Seek

16 • The Need to Consider Gloom and Doom

17 • Hope, Coral Trees, and Bucket Babies

18 • My Eureka Mistake and a Game-Changer for Corals

19 • Fusion and Con-Fusion: “Bring Out Your Dead”

Part IV—The Future

20 • Size Really Does Matter, Not Age!

21 • Scaling Up Coral Production

22 • New Tools of the Trade

23 • Speed Bumps

24 • Moving Forward with Faith, Hope, and Love




About the author(s)

Dr. David E. Vaughan has held positions in marine aquaculture research and development for over 30 years. For 15 years, he was the Executive Director of the Mote Marine Laboratory Elizabeth Moore Center for Coral Reef Research and Restoration in the Florida Keys where he started the Coral Reef Restoration Program. Through this program he was heralded with being the first to develop the new technology of coral micro-fragmentation which dramatically improves the rate at which coral reefs can be restored. In 2017 he received the Chicago Field Museum Parker/Gentry Award as “Conservationist of the Year” for his work with coral restoration.

As the Founder and President of Plant a Million Corals Foundation, Dave is actively helping people around the world use micro-fragmentation as a scalable tool for reef restoration and is designing and building transportable land-based coral nursery systems that can be shipped to locations across the globe to train others in this “game-changing” technology for restoration. Dave plans to continue sharing his discovered technologies, and passion for coral restoration, to fulfill his goal of planting a million corals before he retires.


“Fantastic! This book reveals how remarkable and spectacular corals truly are. While coral reefs are now under constant threat from climate change, Dave Vaughan has illuminated a path forward—one that offers real hope for corals and all life that depends on them.”
—Jeff Orlowski-Yang, Filmmaker, Director of Chasing Coral, Chasing Ice, and The Social Dilemma

“Dave Vaughan has opened up a whole new perspective on the awe and wonder of the corals that reside in the ‘inner space’ beneath the sea. The significance of each coral polyp shines the light on the need for us to all live like crewmates, not passengers, here on Spaceship Earth.”
—Nicole Stott, Artist ~ Astronaut ~ Earthling

“Love it! A delightful adventure into corals—their biology, ecology, and the environmental pressures they face. Easy to understand and beautifully illustrated, this book is for anyone with an interest in marine life.”
—Shirley Pomponi, Research Professor, Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute

“I can’t think of anyone better than Dave Vaughan to tell the full story of corals! You’ll learn what makes corals so extraordinary and get an honest appraisal of their current state, but you’ll also come away with hope as he explains with infectious optimism the advances that now make it plausible to restore reefs on a grand scale.”
—Mark Schrope, Director, Schmidt Marine Technology Partners

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