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Species Guide » 07. Cnidarians - Octocorals » Alcyonium acaule ca / es

Scientific name: Alcyonium acaule

Marion, 1878

Common Name: Cat: Ma de mort; Cast: Mano de muerto; Ing: Sea finger

Group: 07. Cnidarians - Octocorals

Area type: Deep dive

Depth: Between 10 and 125 m

Measures: Up to 10 cm (maximum 20 cm)

How does it look like?

Erect colonies 10 to 15 centimeters high, with fleshy lobes and a short, sterile foot (peduncle) with which it attaches to hard substrates. Color variable, usually dark red with whitish-yellow polyps up to 5mm, brownish and orange colonies have also been seen. It forms isolated massive strains. This type of soft coral has no axial skeleton and therefore has what is known as a hydroskeleton. It is generated by the suction of water by special polyps that pump water into the interior. All polyps have 8 tentacles with two opposite rows of 8-12 pinnules each, which can retract completely inside the colony. The colony is made up of a mass of spongy tissue traversed by numerous narrow channels and is called mesoglea. It also has a large number of spicules of different shapes that give it consistency.


Where does it live?

It lives from 10 meters depth up to 60m, occasionally down to 125m, on hard bottoms. It lives in the western Mediterranean. It is a common species typical of the infra and circalittoral, on shady rocky bottoms, with moderate but constant water circulation (hydrodynamism).


How does it reproduce?

Reproduction is sexual, although differentiating individuals is not easy. The eggs, which are attached to the female during embryonic development, appear between September and October. The larvae will be released around June.


Is a confusion possible?

It resembles Alcyonium palmatum although this one has pinnate tentacles with 11-13 pinnae on each side and its polyps are translucent. Another criterion for distinction is the habitat. Alcyonium palmatum usually inhabits sandy bottoms while Alcyonium acaule prefers hard substrates.



· It is very sensitive to temperature changes and warm water. In fact it is increasingly scarce at moderate depths for this reason.

· It is lightly translucent if a light is placed on the opposite side.

· Sea slugs of the family Tritoniidae feed on their polyps.



Phylum: Cnidaria, Class: Anthozoa, Subclass: Alcyonaria, Order: Alcyonacea, Family: Alcyoniidae, Genus: Alcyonium

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