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Melithaea davidi: A new deepwater sea fan

By Leonard Ho - Posted Oct 12, 2016 09:00 AM
At the depth of 80 meters (~240 feet) in the Sea of Oman (between the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean), explorers discovered a new delicate, lacy octocoral.
 Melithaea davidi: A new deepwater sea fan

A peach-colored morph of Melithaea davidi with its polyps extended.

Melithaea sp. are most frequently observed on deep mesophotic reefs where little light penetrates.  Thus, the genus is all azooxanthellate (without symbiotic algae) and relies on filter feeding for their nutrition. Melithaea davidi's bright red and orange coloration along with its bushy white polyps are also classic hallmarks of azooxanthellate corals. 

The new sea fan is often found covered with tiny ophiuroid brittle stars as seen in the red specimen below (they're the stringy white things wrapped around the sea fan's branches).  These brittle stars are thought to be symbiotic by cleaning debris that collects on sea fans while the sea fan provides shelter and a food source.

Melithaea davidi is described in ZooKeys.

Red morph of Melithaea davidi
Red morph of Melithaea davidi

Author: Leonard Ho
Location: Southern California

I'm a passionate aquarist of over 30 years, a coral reef lover, and the blog editor for Advanced Aquarist. While aquarium gadgets interest me, it's really livestock (especially fish), artistry of aquariums, and "method behind the madness" processes that captivate my attention.


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