Overview

Comprehensive Description

Description

 Colonies of this species are pink and up to 4 cm high and 5 cm wide when the polyps are contracted. The colonies typically form thick, fleshy masses of irregular shaped, stout, finger-like projections. Colonies may densely cover several square metres of rock. Alcyonium hibernicum is very similar in colour and morphology to Alcyonium coralloides and may be distinguished by its lobate or digitate morphology which differs to the more encrusting Alcyonium coralloides. Also, Alcyonium hibernicum is found only on shaded or overhanging rock surfaces.The taxonomy of the species has been recently revised by McFadden (1999). Alcyonium hibernicum was previously described as Alcyonium coralloides and Parerythopodium coralloides. Alcyonium hibernicum was also named Alcyonium pusillum by Tixier-Durivault and Lafargue (1966). McFadden (1999) considered Alcyonium hibernicum and Alcyonium coralloides to be separate species and suggested that they represented clades of five different species based on allozyme polymorphisms. In 2004 McFadden and Hutchinson suggested that Alcyonium hibernicum originates as a hybrid, with Alcyonium coralloides being one parent.
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Description

This small soft coral typically forms Alcyonium-like fingers up to 40mm tall. It is pink in colour, with white flecks on the tentacles. May be confused with small colonies of Alcyonium digitatum but habitat preferences, colour and 'spangled' appearance of polyps should enable a positive identification.
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Source: Encyclopedia of Marine Life of Britain and Ireland

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Distribution

Very local on west coasts of the British Isles, north to Mull, western Scotland. Can be quite common in suitable localities.
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Ecology

Habitat

 Occurs on shaded vertical or overhanging rock surfaces in the shallow subtidal, between 1-30 m depth. Requires at least moderate water movement, to provide a supply of food particles. Alcyonium hibernicum requires some shelter from wave action, such as that provided by the landward side of overhanging rocks.
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Found in localities somewhat sheltered from strong wave action and out of the light. On rocks with little algal growth, beneath overhangs, in crevices, caves, on wrecks, etc. Depth range 0-35m. May occur in enclosed situations such as sea lochs (loughs) where salinity is slightly reduced.
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General Ecology

Ecology

Known to produce larvae which settle close to the parent colony, resulting in very localised distribution.
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