How does it look like?
It is an encrusting coral colony of red color, sometimes pink, without skeleton, with a maximum thickness of about to 2 centimeters. Its polyps are white or yellowish and reach a size of about 5 millimeters. They are not regularly arranged on the colony and sometimes certain areas may lack them. It is a species with a rough feel due to the numerous skeletal spicules present throughout the tissue, which are also lodged in the polyps. Due to the absence of a skeleton of its own, this species leads a parasite-like life and borrows the skeleton of other gorgonians. It mainly appropriates the structure of Eunicella singularis, which it completely covers. When its larvae attach themselves to this gorgonian, they begin to compete for space with the living tissue of their host, which becomes smaller and smaller until Alcyonium coralloides completely covers it. Eventually it can show an arborescent appearance, although it is not. Its colonies are membranous and in some cases even cover the substrate.
Where does it live?
It lives mainly on corals of the genus Eunicella, although it can also cover Paramuricea or Leptogorgia. It can also be found in the pre-coraligenous zone covering rocks, ascidians of the genus Microcosmus, bivalve shells (Pteria hirundo) and also on sunken ships. Quite abundant in the circumcoastal zone between 8 and 100 meters deep. It is found in the Mediterranean and in the Atlantic, up to the English Channel.
How does it reproduce?
Reproduction is sexual. The embryos begin to develop from November, the planulae larvae from May to June.
Is a confusion possible?
Larger colonies can be confused with the gorgonian Paramuricea clavata, although in this species the polyps, tentacles and axis are always of a uniform color. It can also be confused with the atlantic species Alcyonium hibernicum (which can only be distinguished with biochemical analysis), although in this case the distribution will help us to avoid confusion. Finally, it can also be confused with small colonies of Alcyonium acaule or Rolandia coralloides (the colonies of which are mucilaginous (gelatinous), while A.coralloides has a dry and rough feel
· It is usually observed on vertical walls not exposed to the sun.
· In many books this species is found under the name Parerythropodium coralloides, which actually is a not accepted synonym.
Phylum: Cnidaria, Class: Anthozoa, Subclass: Alcyonaria, Order: Alcyonacea, Family: Alcyoniidae, Genus: Alcyonium