The Violescent Sea-Whip Coral (Paramuricea clavata) is a marine (saltwater) soft coral in the Plexauridae family of coralins. It is a living animal, and not a plant.
The Violescent Sea-Whip Coral is a red fan-shaped branching colony of coral, which looks like a flat, one-dimensional tree. The stem and branches are stiffened by gorgonin, which is a complex protein that produces a hard skeleton. Covering the skeleton is a thin layer of coenenchyme with polyps. The polyps have eight tentacles (feeding arms) around a central mouth. It is sometimes also partly yellow in colour.
The polyps measure 1 centimetres (less than half an inch) in length. The whole colony of the Violescent Sea-Whip Coral grows to 100 centimetres (36 inches) across.
It is found in shallow waters of the north-eastern Atlantic Ocean, the north-western Mediterranean Sea, and the Ionian Sea, especially around Spain and Portugal.
It prefers shallow reefs.
The Violescent Sea-Whip Coral is a filter feeder. The polyp tentacles catch very small food, such as copepods and diatoms, as they float by, and the tentacles put the food into their central mouth.
Each colony is either male or female. The female has embryos that become larvae. The larvae are photophobic, which means that it does not like light. The larvae settle on the ocean floor. The larvae develop into polyps and begin secreting gorgonin to form the coral skeleton.
The Violescent Sea-Whip Coral is slow-growing. The colony lives for more than 50 years.
[Location of photographs: Aquarium de Paris-Cinéaqua, France]
Photographer: Martina Nicolls
Martina Nicolls: SIMILAR BUT DIFFERENT IN THE ANIMAL KINGDOM