Species at Risk: Red trees and Bubblegum corals
The gorgonian corals Primnoa, also known as red tree corals or sea corn, and the bubblegum coral Paragorgia arborea can form great branching trees that reach many feet from the seabed.
Red tree corals 7 feet tall and 25 feet wide have been observed by scientists in submersibles, and fishermen have reported bubblegum trees over ten feet tall and several inches thick.
An 1859 account of “the great tree” (bubblegum coral) described fishermen pulling “up fragments … so large…that the people … believe it to grow to the size of forest-trees.” Both species are found in the depths of the north Atlantic and Pacific oceans, from 100 to over 2500 feet deep. The bubblegum coral has been found in waters deeper than 4300 feet.
Numerous animal species are known to use red tree corals as both food and habitat. Economically important rockfish, shrimp and crabs hide among the branches, seeking protection. Crinoids, basket stars, anemones and sponges attach themselves to dead branches so they may better collect food from nutritious currents. Other animals, such as sea stars and snails, feed directly on the corals themselves.