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Whip Corals

(Ellisellidae)

Bubble Corals Subergorgiidae Giant Fans

Like the other soft corals, Ellisellidae is a family of whip corals which do not produce calcium carbonate skeletons. Instead, these corals have flexible skeletons made from a complex protein called gorgonin. Each gorgonian polyp has eight tentacles which catch plankton and particulate matter passing in the currents. This family are recognised by their typical colony formation, which generally grow or branch upward.

2 species found on this page.

Sea Whip Coral

Junceella fragilis

Sea whip coral colonies grow vertically, up to 2m in length and are unbranched, with their upper third twisted or bent. The unbranched main axis is heavily calcified. The colony stem is white to brownish, densely covered with small polyps and containing zooxanthellae, which are responsible for the nutrition of the colony.

These corals are found in reef areas exposed to strong currents in deeper water or reef flats, reef slopes and flat coral rock.

Sea Whip Coral (Junceella fragilis) @ Koh Haa

Junceella fragilis @ Koh Haa

The colonies reproduce asexually; the upper end of a colony is shed and grows into a new whip-like coral. This results in very dense fields of these corals where thousands of colonies settle very close together.

Sea Whip Coral (Junceella fragilis) @ Koh Haa

Sea Whip Coral @ Koh Haa

The bivalve Pteria brevialata and gobies on the genus Bryaninops are found living symbiotically together with these corals. Brittle stars often climb up on to these gorgonians to use their exposed position to collect food from the current.

Lyre Sea Fan

Ctenocella pectinata

Lyre Sea Fan (Ctenocella pectinata) @ Koh Phi Phi

Ctenocella pectinata @ Koh Phi Phi

The Lyre Sea Fan, Harp Sea Fan or Red Whip Coral, has a distinctive comb-like shape, with many parallel branches growing vertically upward from the main stems.

The branches are of variable length and resemble the teeth of a comb.

Lyre Sea Fan (Ctenocella pectinata) @ Koh Phi Phi

Lyre Sea Fan with vertical, comb-like branches

The main stem is a deep red to brownish colour, with numerous while polyps on the vertical secondary branches. When the polyps are retracted, they form small lumps on the otherwise smooth stem.

Lyre Sea Fan (Ctenocella pectinata) @ Koh Phi Phi

Lyre Sea Fan Coral polyps are white

Lyre Sea Fan corals can grow more than 1 metre in height, with secondary branches reaching 60 - 70 cm in length.

This soft coral is found in areas with mild to medium current, between 10 m and 30 m, often close to other species of whip corals and sea fans.

Find Out More: Marine Life References and Further Information

Diving with Whip Corals

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