Marine Wildlife Encyclopedia
Common Sea Fan Gorgonia ventalina
Common sea fans grow attached to the seabed and look like exotic plants. Unlike soft corals, they have a supporting skeleton that provides a framework and allows them to grow quite large. It is made mainly of a flexible, horny material called gorgonin and consists of a rod that extends down the inside of all except the smallest branches. In the common sea fan, the branches are mostly in one plane and form a mesh that is aligned at right angles to the prevailing current. This increases the amount of planktonic food brought within reach of the polyps, which are arranged all around the branches. Fishing nets dragged over the reef can damage common sea fans and, as they grow quite slowly, they take a long time to recolonize. Common sea fans are also collected, dried, and sold as souvenirs.