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Sea Whip Coral

Antipatharia

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This class of over 200 corals is sometimes referred to as “black corals” or “thorny corals.” Like all corals, sea whips are colonial organisms made up of tiny marine invertebrates called polyps. As the polyps grow, they produce antipatharin, a concrete-like substance which forms a barrier around the animals, often with thorn-like structures covering the outer surface. When the polyps die, this rigid skeleton is left behind. Some Antipatharia colonies are over 2,000 years old.

Antipatharia tend to produce darkly colored finger or whip-like skeletons, which explains their common names. The stems and branches of this coral takes a high polish, so some species have been used as jewelry.

Range and Habitat

Sea Whips can be found in the deep-sea areas of tropical and subtropical oceans around the world.

Conservation Status

Unknown. Scientists believe these may be some of the oldest continuously living organisms on the planet, with some specimens estimated at over 4,200 years. Unfortunately, Sea Whips and other corals are extremely vulnerable to human fishing practices such as bottom trawling and to warming ocean temperatures and ocean acidification caused by climate change.