The plumber coral

It is quite confusing at first, stumbling upon a modest cavity that is filled with what looks like a jumbled network of pipes. Perfectly straight tubular shapes coming out of the walls and floor at any angle and reaching out. Sometimes they just stop in mid-air and at the gaping hole can be seen the timid modulations of warm vapor. Occasionally an obstruction will block the path of these pipes. Instead of ending there, they seem to open up and grow to progressively envelop the obstruction. This behavior can sometimes lead to fascinating geometries when two concurring tubes happen to meet. These beautiful sculptures bear witness to a fantastic competition for survival. A battle so slow, that it looks frozen in time.

Plumber coral is, as is the case for many things, a wrongful denomination. These creatures have nothing in common with the famous colorful sculptures of the surface oceans. In fact, the plumber coral does not grow in water but rather in humid caves.

The plumber coral forms small clumps on the rocky walls. These living organisms will then progressively dissolve the minerals through a potent secretion and slowly bore a hole into the hard stone. This exothermic reaction is critical to the survival of the organism who, in an effort to collect as much of the produced heat will perpetually grow a living chimney. Thanks to its high crystalline content the hard but brittle living tube can extend far into the cold void until an obstruction is met. In these instances, the growing material is forced around the obstruction by the internal pressure and gives the impression of swallowing it whole.

Of course, with a metabolism so slow it is alien to humans, large specimens can take millennia to form. An impressive lifespan, only allowed in instances of geographic isolation and the inherent lack of predation.