Soft Corals

© Jean Tresfon

Name

Soft Corals (Alcyonacea)

Size

Soft corals can be as long as 1 m.

Identification

The shapes of soft corals differ, but most have stems which branch to form smaller stems with polyps, which are apparent if not contacted. Soft corals vary in colour from brown to green, orange, yellow, blue and red.

General Info

Soft corals belong to the Alcyonacea order – one of the four Octocorralia orders which include Gorgonians, sea whips and sea pens. Each of their polyps has eight tentacles with which food is caught in the current.
They have internal skeletons and use zooxanthellae as a food source. Soft corals produce a toxic substance which wards off hard coral, with which they compete for space on the reef. They reproduce by spawning.

Feeding

Soft corals feed on zooplankton.

Distribution

They can be found in all temperate and tropical oceans across the world.

Common Species

Lobed soft coral - Sinularia heterospiculata
Leather coral sp - Lobophytum sp
Thistle soft coral - Genus Dendronephthya