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 Plexauridae have a much more diverse assemblage of sclerite morphology as a whole than the 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 Plexauridae

Members of the families Paramuriceidae and Muriceidae were reclassified in Bayer 1981 to Plexauridae. Members of this family in the SAB have an unspiculated, horny axis and a hollow, axial core surrounded by a loculated cortex. Generally the calyces have a strong armature of sclerites.

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

1a. – Sclerites of colonies include warty stellate plates with a central knob as well as cup-shaped rosettes in outer cortex, with concavity of cup facing away from axis....................................2

Sclerites of Bebryce parastellata

Sclerites of Bebryce parastellata. top left: cup shaped rosettes from outer cortex; top right: stellate plate with central knob; bottom: rod. Image courtesy S. Cairns (Smithsonian/NMNH)


1b. – Sclerites of colonies include spindles, granules, rods or thorn-scales but no cup-shaped rosettes in outer cortex.........................................3

Placogorgia sp. thorn-scales

Thesea nivea spindles Scleracis guadalupensis spindles

top: Placogorgia sp. thorn-scales; bottom left: Thesea nivea spindles; bottom right: Scleracis guadalupensis spindles

Back to SERTC