by B. N. Sullivan
In the past several posts, we've been displaying images of soft corals of the Nephtheidae family. To soothe any damage we may have inflicted on our readers' retinas with yesterday's collection of corals with fiery colors, today we're presenting images of Nephtheid corals in pale pastel colors.
By the way, the species of a Nephtheid soft coral cannot be determined merely by looking at the colors. Corals of a particular species in this family may come in a variety of colors.
All of the corals on this page, as well as on yesterday's post, belong to the genus Dendronephthya, but we're not certain of the species. In fact, I have been told by a marine biologist friend who studies these corals, that the only reliable way (short of DNA analysis) to identify a species of Dendronephthya is by examining certain internal structures, called spicules, with a microscope. In other words, it's next to impossible to reliably determine the species in the field.
For our purposes, we don't mind that we can't be sure of the exact species. When it comes to soft corals, we have been more concerned with collecting images of the different color varieties than with precise species identification. We're content just to know that these are Nephtheids.
At first glance, the more brightly colored varieties certainly are impressive, but we think there is something appealing about the pastels, too. The paler colors suggest a certain fragility, perhaps.
The stalks of almost all of these corals are somewhat translucent. But take a look at the macro image at right: The stalk is nearly transparent! (To see even more detail, you can click on any of the photos on this page to enlarge.)
Some of the corals in this family have greenish coloration, making them resemble plants. A common nickname for those varieties is Broccoli Coral. Other Nephtheid soft corals are sometimes referred to as Carnation Coral. The series of images below may give you an idea of why they acquired this common name.
I took all of the photos on this page while diving in the Red Sea, at reefs along the Sinai Peninsula. I hope you enjoy them.