Science name: Gorgonia
The dried-out cream-coloured skeleton of Sea Fans seen in the strandline on beaches does no justice to the beauty of live colonies of this ‘soft coral’ of the reefs. Soft corals, referred to as gorgonians, lack a hard, rigid, permanent skeleton.
They attach to the substrate by a root-like holdfast and are able to flex and sway in the current. As the name suggests, the Sea Fan is compressed in the plane of a fan with interconnected ‘net-like’ branching, and ranges from purple to yellow in colour. They filter feed by capturing plankton from the water column as the “fan” is usually oriented across the prevailing current to maximize water flow to the gorgonian and hence food supply.