For Love of Soft Corals
While they aren't reef builders, the thousands of species come in many shapes and sizes, each swaying gracefully with the ocean currents and providing shelter for countless creatures.
Also called sea fans, there are over 500 species. They're generally found in shallow water, but species have been seen thousands of feet down. Pygmy seahorses are one of their most famous residents.
While most resemble their namesake, their tops can also be funnel shaped or folded. But, these hardy beauties aren't very good neighbors since they produce toxins to defend against encroachment.
Organ Pipe Coral
This one is unique among soft corals since it actually builds a hard skeleton. Feeding tentacles extend from the many holes during the day, but withdraw in an instant when disturbed.
These beauties are able to relocate themselves and have been found as deep as 6000 ft. They're also one of the few that produce bio-luminescence. Nudibranchs and sea stars tend to find them tasty.
Somewhere between anemone and hard coral is this guy, also known as Ricordea florida. Found in a range of colors - purple, orange, green, blue and yellow - its tentacles contain a mild neurotoxin.
Dead Man's Finger
These furry looking plankton feeders are found all over the Atlantic down to over 150 ft. They like strong water movement and have even been seen growing on the backs of crabs.
Also known as tree corals, these tranquil night feeders come in a dizzying array of single and mixed colors. They also like lots of water movement, and are found across most of the world's oceans.
Beautiful but deadly, many species of zoanthids contain palytoxin, one of the most toxic substances found in nature. As with any coral, look but don't touch.
Where hard corals would struggle, soft corals tend to thrive in areas with less light, providing vital food and shelter. We hope you've learned a little more about these gorgeous ocean creatures.