Nephtheid Soft Corals - Pale Pastels

by B. N. Sullivan

Dendronephthy sp.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.

Dendronephthya sp.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.


  1. How beautiful. The striations on the translucent coral branches remind me of rice paper; the pretty pink "flowers" remind me of spring cherry blossoms. I'm curious to touch one although I'm sure that's verboten, as it's no doubt bad for the coral.

  2. Hi Cynematic. I like your descriptions: rice paper, spring cherry blossoms. You're right that it's not a good idea to go around touching these corals, but I admit that on occasion I have done so. The stalks are kind of rubbery, and the polyps/tentacles are a bit prickly.


  3. Incredible is all I can say, the colors and detail are amazing, wonderful work !!

  4. Bobbie,
    It'll be our secret that you touched one. :)

  5. Bobbie - it is really neat how you can see through them - it really shows how fragile they must be!


  6. @ Cynematic - Yes, I'm sure it will remain a secret now! heh heh

    @ Kathy - I love the near transparency of some of those corals, too.


  7. You guys never stop to amaze me. Beautiful!!


We welcome your comments and invite your questions. Dialogue is a good thing!

Bobbie & Jerry