Gorgonia virgulata Lamarck, 1815:157.
Remarks. Leptogorgia virgulata
is one of the most common octocorals in the South Atlantic
Bight. Colonies have a distinctive whip-like colony form (hence
the common name “sea whip”), moderate branching near
the attached base, and can approach a height of one meter. The
branches are 2-5 mm in diameter with multiple rows of calyces along
the sides, sometimes with a bare strip. Calyces are moderately prominent
to completely flush and contain flat rods. The coenenchyme contains
short (<0.1 mm), asymmetrical disk spindles and longer (0.15 mm)
sculptured spindles. The anthocodial rods are at most half the length
of the longest spindles. Colonies may be uniform yellow, orange,
purple, white, or various shades in between, with corresponding
This species is found in shallow reef environments and can tolerate
low salinity environments such as tidal creeks and bays. L.
virgulata is often colonized by the barnacle Conopea galeata,
the Atlantic pearl oyster Pteria colymbus, and the bryozoans
Alcyonidium hauffi and Membranipora arborecens.
There are numerous lots of this species in the NMNH from the shallow SAB.
Atlantic distribution: New York, unknown depth;
Chesapeake Bay to Florida, Gulf of Mexico, 2-59 m (one record from
220 m); Brazil, unknown depth (Deichmann, 1936; Bayer, 1961; NMNH
collections; SERTC collection).
Figure 5. Cortical sclerites of Leptogorgia virgulata
(S2713)(scale bar = 50 µm). Disc spindles and anthocodial
rods not shown.
Figure 1. Leptogorgia virgulata in situ, whole colony.
Figure 2. Branches and expanded polyps of Leptogorgia
virgulata, in situ.
Figure 3. Leptogorgia virgulata, live specimen,
with partially expanded polyps. Branch width is approximately
Figure 4. Contractile and retractile polyps of Leptogorgia
virgulata (live specimen) showing orientation of sclerites