Pink Seafan

Eunicella verrucosa

About

Classified as a horny coral (a gorgonian), sea fans are actually colonies, made up of anemonoe like animals whose hard skeletons run through the fan. They are fixed to the substrate with a ‘holdfast’ (similar to that of kelp plants), and never move during their adult phase. They feed by using genetically identical anenome-like polyps to capture zooplankton (floating food) from the water column. Colonies are orientated at right angles to the current, such that their largest surface area faces the current (this is the same with many other gorgonian species). The pink sea fan is related to tropical corals, but like tropical gorgonian species, only feeds by capturing food from the water column. They grow approximately 10mm per year, but this will depend on the age of the colony and differences in levels of food supply and environmental variables (water temperature/depth/currents) between sites.

How to identify

Sea fans form fan shaped colonies and are easily recognised as they branch profusely. These branches are covered in warty protuberances from which the small anemone-like polyps emerge. Colonies may be up to 80 cm high but more often up to 25 cm and are usually oriented in one plane (at right angles to the prevailing water currents). Although known as the pink seafan, they can vary in colour from white to orange to deep pink.

Where to find it

In Britain, the seafan is restricted to the south-west of England and south-Wales. It has been recorded northwards to north Pembrokeshire and eastwards to Portland Bill and is common in parts of south Devon and Cornwall and at Lundy. It has also been recorded on the south and west coasts of Ireland.

Habitats

When to find it

  • January
  • February
  • March
  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September
  • October
  • November
  • December

How can people help

The pink seafan is protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act. As it is slow growing and very fragile, it is particularly sensitive to the affects of mobile fishing gear, in particular scallop dredging. The Wildlife Trusts are working with fishermen, researchers, politicians and local people towards a vision of 'Living Seas', where marine wildlife thrives. At the heart of this vision lies the creation of Marine Protected Areas, areas where the seabed is protected from the most damaging and degrading activity. You can find out more about this campaign on the Living Seas pages.

Species information

Common name
Pink Seafan
Latin name
Eunicella verrucosa
Category
Anemones corals and jellyfish
Statistics
May grow up to 80 cm high but more often up to 25 cm.
Conservation status
Classified as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, in the UK, the pink sea fan is protected under provisions in the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. It is also a Biodiversity Action Plan Priority species.