I've been on a coral and coral-relative kick since visiting Fiji recently. Today's subject is a member of the octocoral group, and you can learn more about them by reading my May 3 blog on soft corals.
In southern California gorgonians, or sea fans, are the primary representatives of the group of animals known as soft corals, or octocorals. They get the latter name by having eight tentacles on each polyp in the colony. And rather than creating a hard, inflexible skeleton out of limestone, like reef-forming corals, they create a flexible skeleton that allows them to wave in the current.
And it is the presence of current that is crucial to the flourishing of sea fans. Where you find sea fans on our local, temperate reefs you will find currents bringing them a constant supply of food that the hungry polyps grab from the passing water.
Today’s photo shows a golden gorgonian (Muricea californica) in full bloom, so to speak. The golden coloration is the result of all of the polyps being fully extending in feeding mode as currents sweep water and food past them. Just like their soft-coral relatives in the tropics, the otherwise unremarkable gorgonian comes to life with color when the currents pick up.
Today's photo was made with a Canon 8-15 mm f/4L fisheye lens zoomed to 15 mm on a Canon 5D Mk. III in an Ikelite underwater housing. It was illuminated by two Ikelite DS-161 strobes and two Ikelite DS-125 strobes in manual mode. The exposure was set to 1/30 sec at f/8 and ISO 200.