Deep water reef coral

Lophelia pertusa

ORDER

Scleractinia

FAMILY

Caryophyllidae

TAXONOMY

Madrepora pertusa Linnaeus, 1758, type of locality not stated, but probably the fjords of Norway.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

English: Spider hazards, spiders' nests (Nova Scotia); Norwegian: Glasskorall, 0yekorall.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Colonial; irregularly branched to form bushy or tree-like colonies up to 2 m tall; brittle tubular branches about 0.5 in (1-1.5 cm) thick; white or pink.

DISTRIBUTION

Most records are from the North Atlantic, but also known from the South Atlantic, northwestern Pacific; Indian Ocean; and waters south of New Zealand.

HABITAT

Cold water (39-53°F [4-12°C]) and deep sea, from 162 to >9750 ft (50 to >3000 m); hard substrates on slopes of continental margins and midoceanic islands. Colonies combine to build reefs and mounds as large as 650 ft (200 m) high, 0.6 mi (1 km) wide, and 3 mi (5 km) long. Studies have found L. per-tusa associated with methane seeps, although this may simply be because these features represent topographic highs where ocean currents speed up, and not because L. pertusa is feeding on methane.

BEHAVIOR

Nothing is known.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Feeds voraciously on zooplankton, including copepods.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Details of sexual reproduction are unknown. Asexual reproduction of new colonies occurs when the fragile branches break and fragments continue to grow.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Commercial deep-sea fish trawls are likely causing mechanical damage to Lophelia reefs. It is unknown what proportion of the coral fragments survive trawling damage. Lophelia reefs have received protected status in Norway. All scleractinian corals are listed in CITES Appendix II.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

Provides a habitat for a diverse community of invertebrates and fishes. ♦

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