Friday Deep-sea Picture: Iridogorgia (09/04/08)

Image courtesy Dr. Erik Cordes, Expedition to the Deep Slope, NOAA/MMS

The deep-sea gorgonian genus Iridogorgia sp. is characterized by a partially calcareous axis with an open, upright spiral or helix arrangement (Verrill, 1883) used to strain food from the water column. Three new species were described last year (Watling 2007). According to Dr. Steve Cairns at Smithsonian NMNH, this is Iridogorgia pourtalesii Verrill, 1883. It's the type species for the genus. Picture from 1410 m depth in Green Canyon 854 on the 2007 Expedition to the Deep Slope in the Gulf of Mexico.

AE Verrill (1883) described the family Chrysogorgidae to which Iridogorgia belongs, calling them "the most beautiful and interesting of all the known gorgonians". He compares the iridescent colors of the axis to burnished gold, mother-of-pearl, and the "most brilliant tropical beetles". Shrimp like these colonies, too. How many do you count living in the branches?


Verill, AE. 1883. Report on the Anthozoa, and on some additional species dredged by the "Blake" in 1877-1879, and by the U.S. Fish Commission steamer "Fish Hawk" in 1880-82. Bull. Mus. Comp. Zool. Harvard 11:1-72, pls. 1-8.

Watling, L. 2007. A review of the genus Iridogorgia (Octocorallia: Chrysogorgiidae) and its relatives, chiefly from the North Atlantic Ocean. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the UK. 87: 393-402. doi:10.1017/S002531540705535X

More like this

The Alvin submersible dives on the New England Seamount chain found plentiful coral colonys of whip coral, parasol coral, and beautiful spiraling Iridogorgia. These coral collections are made up of hundreds of tiny polyps, arranged in precise geometric patterns. Video courtesy of Les Watling,…
[Note: Once again I have found myself with too many writing projects and too little time. Expect something substantial to appear here tomorrow, but for now enjoy an old tale about the "Nevada Giant."] The role petrified bones and footprints have played in the origin of myths and legends has been…
The probable role of fossils in giving rise to myths and legends has been recognized since the 19th century, but it has only been recently that the connection between giant bones & footprints and mythology has been appreciated as a subject worthy of detailed study (see The First Fossil Hunters…
OK so Google Inbox is excellent and I use it all the time. Takes so much of the stress out of e-mail. But I wonder, when are we getting Google Imbolc? Hehe. This Swedish author intends to talk about the actions of the Medieval aristocracy, instead puts "their acting". And his language reviewer does…

"the most beautiful and interesting of all the known gorgonians"

This somehow summed up my thoughts when I saw the picture. Good find!