Featuring highly stylized digital portraits, the stamp art depicts four types of stony corals with associated reef fish: elkhorn coral, shown with two French angelfish; brain coral, with a spotted moray eel; staghorn coral, with bluestriped grunts; and pillar coral, with a coney grouper and neon gobies.
Coral reefs are formed over thousands of years mainly by colonies of animals called polyps. Polyps make stony corals, the foundation for most coral reefs, by secreting protective skeletons of calcium carbonate or limestone. As these limestone skeletons accumulate over time — with new colonies of polyps growing on top of the skeletons of older ones — they build up the base of coral reefs.
Coral reefs are some of the world’s most marvelous ecosystems, sheltering and sustaining about a quarter of all ocean species. Anyone who has snorkeled in tropical environments has witnessed the sea come alive when approaching a coral reef. Suddenly an abundance of fish of all types and colors appear, along with a variety of other animals and plants, including sea urchins, seagrass, octopuses and lobsters.
Art director Ethel Kessler designed the stamps. Tyler Lang created the stamp art.