Taxonomy [Gorgonia] [Phylum: Cnidaria] [Class: Anthozoa] [Family: Gorgonacea ]
Gorgonians are soft coral sea fans found in shallow water oceans.
They are invertebrates, marine animal structures of numerous tiny polyps, growing in a flat fan-like pattern, eventually reaching a large branching fan-shaped colony.
There are more than five hundred different species, which have differing branching patterns.
The flexible horny skeleton called gorgonin creates the main internal branch, which supports the outer branches of the colony and any additional tissues - often bright hues of purple, reds, yellows, and oranges - living on its surface.
The polyps spread outwards, usually across the prevailing currents, creating a large area to sift plankton and ensnare prey.
Although there are hundreds of Gorgonia species, they differ by branching patterns and all reach a height of approximately 60 cm.
They are commonly found in oceanic shallow water and thrive to abundance in the Atlantic regions of Florida and Bermuda.
During reproduction the sea fan's fertilized eggs become larval planulae - microscopic hair-like larva.
The larva disperses from the colony before it metamorphoses into full term adult form.
The continuing development of new polyps eventually creates the sea fan colony. This metamorphosis is scientifically known as asexual budding.
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