Overview

Brief Summary

Gorgonia ventalina is a species of sea fan that is usually purple. Its spicules are small and fusiform; tiny white polyps protrude from these spicules. Gorgonia ventalina is found in coral reefs and feeds on zooplankton by orienting itself in the sea current's path to catch the tiny organisms.

  • Colin, P. 1978. Caribbean Reef Invertebrates and Plants. Neptune City, NJ: TFH Publications.
  • Morse, D., A. Morse, H. Duncan. 1977. Algal tumors in the Caribbean sea fan *G. ventalina*. 3rd International Coral Reef Symposium Proceedings.
  • Kester, E. 1900. A Treatise on Zoology Part II. London: Adam and Charles Black.
  • Sterrer, W. 1986. Marine Flora and Fauna of Bermuda. New York: Wiley.
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Distribution

occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

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Geographic Range

The geographic range of Gorgonia ventalina is from Bermuda to Curacao, including the Florida Keys and Western Caribbean. However, it is not found in the Gulf of Mexico. In geographic ranges, it is found in the southeastern part of the of the nearctic region and the northwestern part of the neotropical region.

Biogeographic Regions: neotropical (Native ); atlantic ocean

  • Colin, P. 1978. Caribbean Reef Invertebrates and Plants. Neptune City, NJ: TFH Publications.
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National Distribution

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

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Global Range: (>2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)) Considered widesread in tropical western Atlantic and has been documented from the Florida keys, Dry Tortugas, Bahamas, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Jamaica, Lesser Antilles, Honduras and Bermuda.

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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

Gorgonia ventalina is usually purple but can vary to its less common colors of yellow-orange, yellow, and brown. In some cases, the color of the sea fan is a result of the environment and the chemicals in the enviroment. The principle pigments of the sea fan are fixed in the spicules (needle-like parts of solid calcium carbonate). Colors result from chemical pigments produced in the spicules. Since the color of the fan varies, the shape of the spicules is the only positive identifier of G. ventalina. The spicules are small and fusiform. The polyps of the G. ventalina protrude from the spicules as tiny fragile white flowers. It is these individual polyps that form the sea fan.

Gorgonia ventalina can be up to 180 cm tall and 150 cm wide, with anastomose branches, which form uniplanar, reticulate, fan-shaped colonies. The branches are round or slightly compressed in the plane of the fan branch.

Range length: 180 (high) cm.

Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; heterothermic

  • Kester, E. 1900. A Treatise on Zoology Part II. London: Adam and Charles Black.
  • Sterrer, W. 1986. Marine Flora and Fauna of Bermuda. New York: Wiley.
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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat Type: Marine

Comments: Listed as a clear-water patch reef species and is found in surgy, shallow-water reef zones where wave energy is high.

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Gorgonia ventalina is distributed in a clumped, non-random distribution on coral reefs. Usually the most common gorgonian in coral reef habitats, it is primarily found on band and patch reefs. In addition, the G. ventalina can be found in near-shore areas with heavy wave action and also on deeper reefs (depths greater than 15 m).

Habitat Regions: tropical ; saltwater or marine

Aquatic Biomes: reef ; coastal

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Depth range based on 18 specimens in 1 taxon.
Water temperature and chemistry ranges based on 6 samples.

Environmental ranges
  Depth range (m): 1 - 49
  Temperature range (°C): 26.969 - 27.428
  Nitrate (umol/L): 0.171 - 1.087
  Salinity (PPS): 35.091 - 36.385
  Oxygen (ml/l): 4.579 - 4.671
  Phosphate (umol/l): 0.068 - 0.156
  Silicate (umol/l): 1.610 - 2.731

Graphical representation

Depth range (m): 1 - 49

Temperature range (°C): 26.969 - 27.428

Nitrate (umol/L): 0.171 - 1.087

Salinity (PPS): 35.091 - 36.385

Oxygen (ml/l): 4.579 - 4.671

Phosphate (umol/l): 0.068 - 0.156

Silicate (umol/l): 1.610 - 2.731
 
Note: this information has not been validated. Check this *note*. Your feedback is most welcome.

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Migration

Non-Migrant: No. All populations of this species make significant seasonal migrations.

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.

SEDENTARY

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Trophic Strategy

Food Habits

Gorgonia ventalina is carnivourous, feeding on zooplankton, especially at night. A passive feeder, Gorgonia ventalina orients itself in the path of the sea current, so that the current flows past the fan and the zooplankton in the current are caught and eaten. In addition to being a carnivorous passive feeder, G. ventalina also has zooxanthellae, which extensively colonize the sea fan, especially in the epidermis, polyps, and gastrodermal canals and the anthocodial septae. These zooxanthellae, usually Symbiodinium sp., are also able to provide the sea fan with nutrients through its photosynthetic activities.

Animal Foods: aquatic crustaceans; zooplankton

Primary Diet: carnivore (Eats non-insect arthropods); planktivore

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Associations

Ecosystem Roles

Gorgonia ventalina has several ecosystem roles, primarily by serving as a substrate for many other organisms. For example, bivavle molluscs, sponges, and algae may grow on dead sections of the sea fan. However, it is not known if the growth of these organisms kills the sections or if they invade after the coral is already dead. Certain organisms, such as the brittle star and the basket starfish, use the tall G. ventalina to climb to a more advantageous position for filter feeding in reef areas. There have been studies into the role that sea fans, including G. ventalina, have in the formation of coral reefs. Conclusions were the limestone inner structure provides some of the base where other corals may attach to form more colonies.

Ecosystem Impact: creates habitat

Mutualist Species:

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Predation

Gorgonia ventalina contains secondary metabolites and calcified sclerites that act as anti-predator defenses. These anti-predator defenses act as successful feeding deterrents to the Cyphoma gibbosum, a common predator of the G. ventalina. Cyphoma gibbosum feeds on gorgonian polyps by crawling slowly over the skeleton. Trotonia hamnerorum is a specialized predator on G. ventalina.

Known Predators:

  • Cronin, G., M. Hay, W. Finical, N. Lindquist. March 1995. Distribution, density, and sequestration of host chemical defenses by the specialist nudibranch *Tritonia hamnerorum* found at high densities on the sea fan *G. ventalina*. Marine Ecology - Progress Series, 119 (1-3): 177-189.
  • Van Alstyne, K., V. Paul. September 1992. Chemical and structural defenses in the sea fan *G. ventalina* - effects against generalist and specialist predators. Coral Reefs, 11 (3): 155-159.
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Population Biology

Number of Occurrences

Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.

Estimated Number of Occurrences: 81 to >300

Comments: Updated information is needed on the distribution of occurrences in tropical western Atlantic.

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Global Abundance

1000 - 2500 individuals

Comments: Species found on numerous hardbottom communities, including sparse and dense low-relief hardbottom communities, patch reefs, reef crests, spur and groove reefs, transitional reefs and intermediate reefs.

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General Ecology

P91WAH01FCUS: susceptible to predators, disease(s?), hurricane/storm damage. A81ANT02FCUS: seldom encountered with black band disease, never reported with white band disease. A81MOR01FCUS, A77MOR01FCUS: algal tumors, infestation and peripheral necrosis and erosion caused by filamentous algal networks. A73GOL02FCUS: optimal temperature range between 19-31 degrees Celsius. Optimal salinity range between 29.5 and 39.0 ppt. A87HAR02FCUS, A92VAN01FCUS: chemical defense against predation by Cyphoma (ovulid predatory gastropod). A92GAR01FCUS: probable water-borne pathogen that has resulted in mass mortality of populations along Central and South America. A91YOS01FCUS: growth rate measured from 1.92 to 2.34 cm/yr increase in height.

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Communication and Perception

In Anthozoans, specialized sensory organs are absent and nerves are arranged in nerve nets. Most nerve cells allow impulses to travel in either direction. Hairlike projections on individual cells are mechanoreceptors and possible chemoreceptors. Some Anthozoans show a sensitivity to light.

Communication Channels: tactile ; chemical

Perception Channels: tactile ; chemical

  • Brusca, R., G. Brusca. 2003. Invertebrates. Sunderland, Massachusetts: Sinauer Associates, Inc..
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Life Cycle

Development

Once a planulae polyp is settled on a hard surface, the young polyp creates a horizonatal layer of aragonite called the basal disk. As the polyp grows upward, the base's margin also turns upward, forming a cup called the epitheca, which contains daily growth bands. These and other sturctures called septa form the skeletal boundaries found at the bottom of the coral polyps, which are left behind as a result of the upward growth of the polyp.

  • Cary, L. May 15, 1915. The Alcyonaria as a factor in reef limestone formation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 1, (5): 285-289.
  • Druffel, E. August 5, 1997. Geochemistry of corals: proxies of past ocean chemistry, ocean circulation, and climate. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci USA, Vol. 94, No. 16: 8354-8361.
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Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

There are several potential causes of death for G. ventalina. The greatest cause of mortality is the disattachment of a colony from the substrate, most likely by wave action and storms. The overgrowth of the sea fan by other organisms is also another leading cause of death, especially by the hydrocoralline Millipora alcicornis and some encrusting bryozoa. The cause of death is attributed to the lack of food and oxygen to the polyp. Recently, mortality has also been attributed to tumor growth. The tumors observed on G. ventalina exposed to environmental stresses include the presence of pollutants, rising water temperature, increased nutrient concentrations, and increased turbidity. The large tumor masses, which were most often concentrated at the axial bases of the affected clonies were clearly associated with tissue death (necrosis) and erosion of the affected coral. According to Cary, there is no evidence that gorgonian colonies ever die from old age.

  • Morse, D., A. Morse, H. Duncan. 1977. Algal tumors in the Caribbean sea fan *G. ventalina*. 3rd International Coral Reef Symposium Proceedings.
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Reproduction

No information on reproductive strategies or recruitment patterns from resources consulted.

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Gorgonian corals reproduce asexually by cloning or fragmentation, with external fertilization. The larvae typically spend several days as plankton before settling on a hard surface to begin formation of a colony.

Key Reproductive Features: asexual ; fertilization (External ); oviparous

Parental Investment: no parental involvement

  • Druffel, E. August 5, 1997. Geochemistry of corals: proxies of past ocean chemistry, ocean circulation, and climate. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci USA, Vol. 94, No. 16: 8354-8361.
  • Gotelli, N. April 1991. Demographic models for *Leptogorgia virgulata*, a shallow-water gorgonian. Ecology, 72 (2): 457-467.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Genomic DNA is available from 1 specimen with morphological vouchers housed at Australian Museum, Sydney
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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: NNR - Unranked

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G3 - Vulnerable

Reasons: Species occurs throughout tropical western Atlantic and is able to colonize turbulent reef zones. Moderate sedimentation and nutrient loading are considered significant threats. This species relies on extensive water movement for maintenance of colony surfaces. Eutrophication of nearshore reefs may lead to an increased incidence of disease and limited recruitment.

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No current conservation details available.

US Migratory Bird Act: no special status

US Federal List: no special status

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Global Short Term Trend: Relatively stable (=10% change)

Comments: Updated information needed on status and trend of known occurrences.

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Threats

Degree of Threat: B : Moderately threatened throughout its range, communities provide natural resources that when exploited alter the composition and structure of the community over the long-term, but are apparently recoverable

Comments: Considered moderately threatened by sedimentation, disease and water quality. Species is found in well-flushed environments and will be severely impacted from sediment accumulation. It is unknown how much of an impact disease has had on specific sites.

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Management

Biological Research Needs: Previous research has focused on recruitment of species to experimentally cleared substrata. Information needed on specific threats, impacts of water quality and incidence of disease.

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Global Protection: Few to several (1-12) occurrences appropriately protected and managed

Comments: Several occurrences are found in Biscayne National Park and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

Needs: Hardbottom communities in protected areas need to be monitored for degraded water quality.

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Uses

Comments: B77CAI01FCUS, P91WAH01FCUS: heavily collected in some areas (not Florida).

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Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Could not find any adverse effects on humans.

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Compounds have been separated from G. ventalina to make antibiotics. These compounds include octacoral.

Gorgonia ventalina is popularly collected for use in aqauriums and as souvenirs.

As a colorful addition to coral reef habitats, its presence also is important to ecotourism.

Positive Impacts: pet trade ; ecotourism ; source of medicine or drug

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Wikipedia

Gorgonia ventalina

Gorgonia ventalina, the purple sea fan, is a species of sea fan, an octocoral in the family Anthothelidae. It is found in the western Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.

Contents

Description

Gorgonia ventalina is a fan-shaped colonial coral with several main branches and a latticework of linking smaller branches. The skeleton is composed of calcite and gorgonion, a collagen-like compound. The calyces in which the polyps are embedded are in two rows along the branches. Many of the smaller branches are compressed in the plane of the fan, a fact that distinguishes this species from the Venus sea fan (Gorgonia flabellum). It often has small accessory fans growing out sideways from the main fan. It grows to 1.5 metres (5 feet) tall and is variable in colour, being whitish, yellow or pale purple. The main branches are often purple and the fan is orientated at right angles to the current.[2][3]

Distribution and habitat

Gorgonia ventalina is found in the western Atlantic and Caribbean Sea with a range extending from Bermuda and Florida and the Gulf of Mexico to Curaçao. It grows near the shore in shallow water in areas with strong wave action and on deeper outer reefs with strong currents down to a depth of about 15 metres (49 ft).[2]

Ecology

Gorgonia ventalina is a filter feeder. Each polyp extends its eight tentacles to catch plankton drifting past on the current. Its tissues contain a symbiotic dinoflagellate Symbiodinium spp. which is photosynthetic and uses sunlight to create organic carbon compounds which are then available to the host coral. [4]

The skeleton of Gorgonia ventalina contains hard structures known as sclerites which are unpalatable to predators. It also contains certain secondary metabolites in its tissues which are distasteful. The nudibranch Tritonia hamnerorum seems undeterred by these defences and is often found associated with the coral. While feeding on the coral it concentrates the metabolites in its tissues which renders it unpleasant to potential predators.[4]

This coral is sometimes attacked by the fungus Aspergillus sydowii which causes the disease aspergillosis. This results in damaged patches, galls, purpling of the tissues and even coral death. There have been several epizootics in the Caribbean and corals growing in stressful conditions such as in low salinity water in estuaries seem specially susceptible.[4]

References

  1. ^ van Ofwegen, Leen (2012). "Gorgonia ventalina Linnaeus, 1758". World Register of Marine Species. http://www.marinespecies.org/aphia.php?p=taxdetails&id=290045. Retrieved 2012-10-10.
  2. ^ a b Colin, Patrick L. (1978). Marine Invertebrates and Plants of the Living Reef. T.F.H. Publications. p. 171–174. ISBN 0-86622-875-6. 
  3. ^ "Gorgonia ventalina (Linnaeus 1758)". Coralpedia. http://coralpedia.bio.warwick.ac.uk/en/octocorals/gorgonia_ventalina.html. Retrieved 2012-10-09.
  4. ^ a b c Tabitha A. Baker. "Common Sea Fan (Gorgonia ventalina)". Marine Invertebrates of Bermuda. http://www.thecephalopodpage.org/marineinvertebratezoology/Gorgoniaventalina.html. Retrieved 2012-10-09.
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