Marine Wildlife Encyclopedia
Dead Man's Fingers Alcyonium digitatum
This soft coral’s strange name, dead man's fingers, comes from its appearance when thrown ashore by storms. It is shaped like a thick lump with stubby fingers, which can, with a little imagination, resemble a corpse’s hand. When alive, dead man's finger grows attached to rocks in shallow water and often covers large areas, especially where strong currents bring plenty of planktonic food. With the polyps extended, the colonies have a soft, furry look. Most dead man’s fingers colonies are white but some are orange with white polyps. Over the fall and winter, the colony retracts its polyps and becomes dormant. In the spring, the dead man's fingers' outer skin is shed, along with any algae and other organisms that have settled on it.