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
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
– Colony irregularly pinnate, with short branches curving upward.
Polyps in double series along terminal twigs. Calyces protruding
in dome-like fashion
punicea (Milne Edwards
& Haime 1857)
Leptogorgia punicea left:
from Bayer 1961, Plate VII (height = 14 cm); right:
preserved specimen (S2743), fragment (scale bar = 1 cm).
5b. – Colony
regularly pinnate, branches long and not curving. Calyces in single
series along terminal twigs, not protruding or moderately
Leptogorgia cardinalis left: from
Bayer 1961, Plate VII (height = 13 cm); right:
preserved specimen (USNM 72437, scale bar = 5mm).