The soft corals and their relatives (alcyonarians) are abundant and conspicuous components of western Indo-Pacific coral reef communities. Of the soft corals, the strikingly colored species of Dendronephthya are among the most abundant and widespread. They occur in areas periodically exposed to moderate or strong currents, usually below 10 to 15 m depth. When fully expanded, colonies resemble cotton candy, exhibiting dazzling shades of pink, red, blue, purple, yellow, and white. The colonies are densely branched and have a prickly appearance due to the sharp supporting bundles of calcareous particles on each polyp. Dendronephthya species diversity is poorly known and some of the several hundred described species may actually represent intraspecific color variation rather than distinct species. The genus ranges throughout the western Indo-Pacific.
Dendronephthya corals are among the most commonly traded soft corals. Between 1988 and 2002 at least 12,618 Dendronephthya were traded globally (the U.S. was the largest importer, with 51% of the total Dendronephthya trade, and Indonesia was the biggest exporter). However, corals in this genus are poor choices for aquarium hobbyists. They generally die within a few weeks, mainly because they lack photosynthetic "algal" symbionts (zooxanthellae) and must rely instead on filtering food particles and dissolved nutrients from the water column.
(Allen 1997, 2000; Wabnitz 2003)
- Allen, G.A. 1997. Tropical Marine Life. Periplus Editions, Tuttle Publishing, North Clarendon, Vermont.
- Allen, G. 2000. Marine Life of the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Periplus Editions, Tuttle Publishing, North Clarendon, Vermont.
- Wabnitz, C. 2003. From ocean to aquarium: the global trade in marine ornamental species. UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre, UNEP/Earthprint, Cambridge, UK.
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