The South Atlantic Bight
Octocoral Morphology

Gorgonacean Bauplan

List of Species

Occurence Table

Key to the Families of Octocorals in the South Atlantic Bight

Key to the Species of


Notes on the Species
Carijoa riisei
Scleranthelia rugosa
Telesto fruticulosa
Telesto nelleae
Telesto sanguinea
Bellonella rubistella
Pseudodrifa nigra
Nidalia occidentalis
Iciligorgia schrammi
Diodogorgia nodulifera
Titanideum frauenfeldii
Muricea pendula
Thesea nivea
Bebryce grandis
Bebryce parastellata
Scleracis guadalupensis
Leptogorgia hebes
Leptogorgia punicea
Leptogorgia cardinalis
Leptogorgia virgulata
Leptogorgia setacea
Leptogorgia euryale
Ctenocella (Ellisella) barbadensis
Renilla reniformis
Sclerobelemnon theseus
Stylatula elegans
Virgularia presbytes

References Cited

Suggested Reading/Viewing


Order Alcyonacea
Suborder Holaxonia

Octocorals with unspiculated axis and often a soft, chambered central core.
When using sclerites alone, it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between the two families of Holaxonia represented in the SAB. The SAB Plexauridae have a much more diverse assemblage of sclerite morphology as a whole than the SAB Gorgoniidae, but there are some genera (i.e. Thesea) that contain spindles that initially resemble those in the Gorgoniidae. Spindle size and degree of loculation surrounding the axis must also be considered while attempting to place holaxonian specimens in the correct family.

Family Gorgoniidae

This family has the highest diversity in the SAB but is represented only by the genus Leptogorgia. The pinnate branching forms of Leptogorgia found here were at one time classified in the genus Lophogorgia, distinguished by their asymmetrical spindles with partially fused discs. Grasshoff (1988) found this feature to be true only of Atlantic species and not a consistent distinction based on species described from West Africa. As a result, he merged the Atlantic Lophogorgia species into Leptogorgia.
The Leptogorgia species are sometimes difficult to distinguish based on sclerites alone, and often colony morphology of the branching species is highly variable. This South Atlantic Bight members of this family have very small sclerites (<0.3 mm) spindles, capstans and flattened, scalloped rods. The horny axis is hollow with a narrow, chambered core, but the outer core is quite dense and unloculated.

Key to species of Gorgoniidae in the shallow (to 200m) South Atlantic Bight
Couplet 1

1a. – Colony unbranched or moderately branched, whip-like; attached or unattached ....2

whiplike colony of Leptogorgia virgulata unbranched colony of Leptogorgia setacea left: whip-like colony of Leptogorgia virgulata; right: unbranched colony of Leptogorgia setacea

1b. – Colony pinnately branched, branched in one plane or shrubby; always attached .................4

branching colony of Leptogorgia hebes branching colony of Leptogorgia cardinalis
branching colony of: left: Leptogorgia hebes right: Leptogorgia cardinalis

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