Dendronephthya Soft Corals

In my experience Dendronephthya soft corals are the most spectacular and photogenic of the myriad invertebrate denizens of tropical coral reefs. “Soft coral” is a broad term, often used to describe gorgonians, leather corals, cup corals, sea whips, octocorals, etc etc that are found in all oceans of the world. The genus Dendronephthya sp., including about 250 species, is the one I want to highlight here. I was recently diving and photographing in Fiji for a few weeks and focused my efforts on its colorful reefscapes, in which Dendronephthya plays a starring role.

Spectacularly colorful dendronephthya soft corals on South Pacific reef, reaching out into strong ocean currents to capture passing planktonic food, Fiji, Dendronephthya, Vatu I Ra Passage, Bligh Waters, Viti Levu  Island

Dendronephthya is found on Indo-Pacific tropical reefs, often carpeting coral reefs with amazing color: red, orange, yellow, pink and white are typical.  Dendronephthya soft corals do not contain zooxanthellae (unicellular symbiotic algae found in many coral species) and so must capture and consume copious amounts of plankton passing by in order to survive.  Since planktons are delivered by ocean currents, Dendronephthya and other soft corals are often found in profusion in areas where ocean currents are strong. Dendronephthya soft corals have a thick main stalk with bushy groups of polyps at the end of branches. Supporting the polyps are a network of sclerite spicules which give some rigidity to the stalk and branches.  Below are a few images illustrating what I love about Dendronephthya soft corals: their fantastic colors, their capacity to attract large schools of reef fish, and the endless variety of shapes and details with which they are found.  Cheers, and thanks for looking!

Spectacular pristine tropical reef, including dendronephthya soft corals, sarcophyton leather corals and schooling Anthias fishes, pulsing with life in a strong current over a pristine coral reef. Fiji is known as the soft coral capitlal of the world, Dendronephthya, Pseudanthias, Sarcophyton, Namena Marine Reserve, Namena Island

Spectacular pristine tropical reef, including dendronephthya soft corals, sarcophyton leather corals and schooling Anthias fishes, pulsing with life in a strong current over a pristine coral reef. Fiji is known as the soft coral capitlal of the world.
Image ID: 31309
Species: Dendronephthya Soft Coral, Sarcophyton Soft Coral, Anthias, Dendronephthya, Pseudanthias, Sarcophyton
Location: Namena Marine Reserve, Namena Island, Fiji

Dendronephthya soft corals and schooling Anthias fishes, feeding on plankton in strong ocean currents over a pristine coral reef. Fiji is known as the soft coral capitlal of the world, Dendronephthya, Pseudanthias, Namena Marine Reserve, Namena Island

Dendronephthya soft corals and schooling Anthias fishes, feeding on plankton in strong ocean currents over a pristine coral reef. Fiji is known as the soft coral capitlal of the world.
Image ID: 31319
Species: Dendronephthya Soft Coral, Anthias, Dendronephthya, Pseudanthias
Location: Namena Marine Reserve, Namena Island, Fiji

Dendronephthya soft corals and schooling Anthias fishes, feeding on plankton in strong ocean currents over a pristine coral reef. Fiji is known as the soft coral capitlal of the world, Dendronephthya, Pseudanthias

Dendronephthya soft corals and schooling Anthias fishes, feeding on plankton in strong ocean currents over a pristine coral reef. Fiji is known as the soft coral capitlal of the world.
Image ID: 31340
Species: Dendronephthya Soft Coral, Anthias, Dendronephthya, Pseudanthias
Location: Fiji

A Large Dendronephthya Soft Coral extends into ocean currents to grasp passing planktonic food, Fiji, Dendronephthya, Vatu I Ra Passage, Bligh Waters, Viti Levu  Island

A Large Dendronephthya Soft Coral extends into ocean currents to grasp passing planktonic food, Fiji
Image ID: 31356
Species: Dendronephthya Soft Coral, Dendronephthya
Location: Vatu I Ra Passage, Bligh Waters, Viti Levu Island, Fiji

Dendronephthya soft coral detail including polyps and calcium carbonate spicules, Fiji, Dendronephthya, Makogai Island, Lomaiviti Archipelago

Dendronephthya soft coral detail including polyps and calcium carbonate spicules, Fiji
Image ID: 31453
Species: Dendronephthya Soft Coral, Dendronephthya
Location: Makogai Island, Lomaiviti Archipelago, Fiji

Dendronephthya soft coral detail including polyps and calcium carbonate spicules, Fiji, Dendronephthya, Makogai Island, Lomaiviti Archipelago

Dendronephthya soft coral detail including polyps and calcium carbonate spicules, Fiji
Image ID: 31455
Species: Dendronephthya Soft Coral, Dendronephthya
Location: Makogai Island, Lomaiviti Archipelago, Fiji

Spectacularly colorful dendronephthya soft corals on South Pacific reef, reaching out into strong ocean currents to capture passing planktonic food, Fiji, Dendronephthya, Vatu I Ra Passage, Bligh Waters, Viti Levu  Island

Spectacularly colorful dendronephthya soft corals on South Pacific reef, reaching out into strong ocean currents to capture passing planktonic food, Fiji
Image ID: 31499
Species: Dendronephthya Soft Coral, Dendronephthya
Location: Vatu I Ra Passage, Bligh Waters, Viti Levu Island, Fiji