You do not have to go to the tropics to
find colourful corals. We have them in England. The pink
sea-fan is a soft coral, related to tropical species and one of the
most exotic-looking of our seabed animals.
The pink sea-fan lives
in areas of strong currents on the rocky reefs below 10m deep, and
is most common in the south-west of England.
An intricate, branched pink sea-fan can grow
up to 80cm high and 100cm across, but it is not a single
animal. It is in fact a colony of tiny anemone-like polyps
with stinging tentacles, which capture microscopic animals from the
passing water. They usually grow at right angles to the
prevailing water currents, to catch as much food as they
Pink sea-fans are themselves home to other
creatures including a sea slug and a rare anemone. Dogfish
also attach their eggs to pink sea-fans, wrapping the long tendrils
at the corners of the ‘Mermaid’s Purse’ eggcase around the
Pink sea-fan colonies are extremely
slow-growing and vulnerable to damage. The main threats to
them are beam trawling, scallop dredging, and boat anchoring.
The broken branches of pink sea-fans are
a common sight on the strandline of the south-west’s beaches – a
testament to the scale of damage to sea-fan colonies.
Pink sea-fans are found on western coasts of Europe (Spain,
Portugal and France), and the western Mediterranean. Their
distribution extends into western and southern Britain and Ireland.
In the future, they may extend further north as a result of global
- This is a UK BAP Priority Species (BAP
species are now Species of Principal Importance/Priority
- Species of principal importance for the purpose of conservation
of biodiversity under the Natural Environment and Rural Communities
- Nationally scarce species.
- Protected under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act
- Globally vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.
Biodiversity Action Reporting System
Life Information Network
JNCC - UK BAP Priority
Species and Habitats