The parasitic coral latches onto the bloodstream of its host, most commonly fish and shellfish. While it has been known to also infect careless swimmers, when caught early enough simply allowing the coral to dry out is sufficient to kill it and stop its growth. Those who spend much time in the water need to remain vigilant, as once the coral had established itself in the bloodstream, typically a week after infection, only surgical procedures can be guaranteed to remove the coral.
Growth Rate & Stages
Clouds of coral gametes will float to the surface of the water to mingle with help from the waves and currents. Upon fertilization the eggs enter a larval stage, where they will sink to the bottom of the shallows and eventually affix themselves to their host, taking cues from sudden movements to permanently attach themselves to another living organism, most commonly fish and crustaceans but also sea mammals and occasionally even individuals swimming within the waters. From here the larva will eventually morph into a polyp, its form for the remainder of its life. Polyps grow a mix of root-like tentacles which dig into its host. The thinner, tougher tentacles carry barbs meant to worm their way into the flesh and shells of its host while the thicker, softer tentacles will attach themselves to the creature's bloodstream, absorbing nutrients. Upon the death of their host, when the bloodstream stops, these tentacles will slowly devour the remains of the coral's former host from the inside out before releasing their own cloud of gametes for fertilization and reproduction.
Ecology and Habitats
While a parasitic coral infestation is typically bad news for the host, the coral's bright coloration often warns off an assortment of predators who have learned consuming prey infected with the coral leads to severe digestive discomfort and worse as the coral adjusts to its new home. A few rare species of sea life are known to therefore seek out the large clouds of colorful gametes spawned during breeding in the hope of becoming infected, using the coral to actually extend their own lifespans.
Uses, Products & Exploitation
The softer tentacles of the parasitic coral secrete a highly effective blood thinning agent which the Herbs are Healing Movement has adapted as one of the prime examples for why Alchemy should be an important part of healing. This enzyme is carefully harvested from infected fish and use in a variety of surgical procedures.