Sunset cup coral
The stunning yellow or orange sunset cup coral
has a hard skeleton beneath almost 100 stinging tentacles. It
does not form reefs, but occurs in groups of up to several hundred
on rocky surfaces from 10- 40m deep, often in shady places, such as
under overhangs and in caves or gullies.
Individual sunset cup corals appear to be
robust and cope well with some environmental changes. Despite this,
they only occur in a very few places in Britain, and their
populations are declining. Numbers of sunset cup corals on
Lundy island fell by almost a quarter in one recent four year
period. They no longer occur at all near Ilfracombe in north
One of the reasons for their lack of success
in British waters is that they are hanging on at the northern
extreme of their geographical range, and so only inhabit the most
ideal locations. The pockets of sunset cup corals that are
found here may be a relic of a more extensive spread of the animals
that was known to have occurred approximately 700 years ago.
Because the sunset cup corals struggle to
survive in these northern conditions, their ability to reproduce
may be affected. Larvae is sometimes carried up from southern
Europe, but these water masses only move into southwest England
about every 25 years.
The skeletons of cup corals can be weakened by boring animals
(such as horseshoe and fan worms and burrowing bivalve shells) and
then dislodged by foraging wrasse or by divers’ fins.
The sunset cup coral occurs in a small number of isolated
locations, in south-west of England. It was first recorded in
Britain in 1969, from Lundy Island. In other parts of the
northeast Atlantic, it has been recorded in the Channel Isles,
Brittany and Portugal and occurs widely in the Mediterranean,
especially in caves.
- 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
Act 2006 in England.
- Nationally rare marine species.
Biodiversity Action Reporting System
of Marine Life of Britain and Ireland
Life Information Network
JNCC - UK BAP Priority
Species and Habitats