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Plexaurella nutans

giant slit-pore sea rod
Plexaurella nutans
Coral reef assembly with Plexaurella nutans at right back
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Cnidaria
Subphylum: Anthozoa
Class: Anthozoa
Subclass: Alcyonaria
Order: Alcyonacea
Suborder: Holaxonia
Family: Plexauridae
Genus: Plexaurella
Species: P. nutans
Binomial name
Plexaurella nutans
(Duchassaing & Michelotti, 1860)
  • Campanularia flabellata Hincks, 1866

Plexaurella nutans, the giant slit-pore sea rod, is a tall species of soft coral in the family Plexauridae. It is a relatively uncommon species and is found in shallow seas in the Caribbean region.

Vernacular Names

  • English: giant slit-pore sea rod


Plexaurella nutans can grow to a height of over a metre (yard).[1] It has thick cylindrical branches that occasionally fork and which are often slightly clubbed at the tips. These have a diameter of 10 to 15 centimetres (3.9 to 5.9 in). The polyps are rather large and protrude from round, oval or slit-shaped grooves in the cup-shaped calyces in the coral skeleton. Each of these calyces is on a slight mound giving the coral a dimpled surface. When the polyps are extended, as they usually are, they give the coral a fuzzy appearance.[2] The colour of this coral is usually pale brown, grey or sometimes lavender.[1]


The polyps of Plexaurella nutans extend their tentacles to feed on zooplankton and other small invertebrates floating past. The food gathered is shared with neighbouring polyps via the gastrovascular cavity inside the coral's skeleton. After particles of liver marked with a radioactive tracer were fed experimentally to a single polyp, radioactivity was detected in tissues up to 11 centimetres (4.3 in) away.[3] Plexaurella nutans is a zooxanthellate species of coral with large numbers of symbiotic dinoflagellates from the genus Symbiodinium living in its tissues. These are photosynthetic algae that provide nourishment to their host while benefiting from the coral's waste products. It was found experimentally that different species of Symbiodinium were found at different depths in Plexaurella nutans and other corals. If the corals' tissues were cultured in the laboratory, other species again became apparent, the growth of which was favoured by the laboratory environment. These must have been undetected in the tissues previously.[4]

Habitat and Ecology


Biome: Marine.


Name Status

Name status: accepted name.
Latest taxonomic scrutiny: van Ofwegen, Leen, 17-Sep-2010
Source: WoRMS Octocorallia, 01-Nov-2014


Plexaurella nutans is an uncommon species and occurs at depths down to 50 metres (160 ft) in the Caribbean Sea, the Bahamas and Florida. It is usually found on isolated patch reefs or on forereef slopes.[2][5]

  • Reported here: Jamaica.
  • Reported here: Bermuda; Gulf of Mexico
  • Aquatic regions: Atlantic Ocean.

Map showing distribution of observations of Plexaurella nutans.



More Information


  • Catalog of Life Identifier: b4d931b1453006ae9f2b42902f683059
  • GBIF: TaxonID: 2260924 TaxonKey: 304539
  • ITIS: 52199
  • Namebank ID: 2565254
  • SP2000 Accepted Name Code: URM-Cn-3584
  • ZipcodeZoo CritterID: 451903


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Plexaurella nutans (Duchassaing 1860)". Co ralPedia. Retrieved 2012-12-18. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Colin, Patrick L. (1978). "Marine Invertebrates and Plants of the Living Reef". T.F.H. Publications. p. 170. ISBN 0-86622-875-6. 
  3. Murdock, Gordon R. (1978). "Digestion, Assimilation, and Transport of Food in the Gastrovascular Cavity of a Gorgonian Octocoral (Cnidaria; Anthozoa)". Bulletin of Marine Science 28 (2): 354–362. 
  4. LaJeunesse, T. (2002). "Diversity and community structure of symbiotic dinoflagellates from Caribbean coral reefs". Marine Biology 141 (2): 387–400. doi:10.1007/s00227-002-0829-2. 
  5. "Giant slit-pore sea rod (Plexaurella nutans)". Interactive Guide to Caribbean Diving (Marine Species Identification Portal). Retrieved 2012-12-18. 


  • Final environmental impact statement prepared on the proposed Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary./i [Washington, D.C.]: U.S. Dept. of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Office of Coastal Zone Management, [1980] url p. 51.
  • Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington./i Washington, Biological Society of Washington url p. 322, p. 928.
  • The Biological bulletin./i Woods Hole, Mass.: Marine Biological Laboratory, url p. 281, p. 287.


  • American Fisheries Society. iCommon and Scientific Names of Aquatic Invertebrates from the United States and Canada: Cnidaria and Ctenophora/i Second Edition. Special Publication 28. ISBN 1-888569-39-5.
  • Bisby, F.A., Y.R. Roskov, M.A. Ruggiero, T.M. Orrell, L.E. Paglinawan, P.W. Brewer, N. Bailly, J. van Hertum, eds (2007). Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life: 2007 Annual Checklist. Species 2000: Reading, U.K.
  • Brands, S.J. (comp.) 1989-present. The Taxonomicon. Universal Taxonomic Services, Zwaag, The Netherlands. Accessed January 16, 2012.
  • Ruggiero M., Gordon D., Bailly N., Kirk P., Nicolson D. (2011). The Catalogue of Life Taxonomic Classification, Edition 2, Part A. In: Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life: 2011 Annual Checklist (Bisby F.A., Roskov Y.R., Orrell T.M., Nicolson D., Paglinawan L.E., Bailly N., Kirk P.M., Bourgoin T., Baillargeon G., Ouvrard D., eds). DVD; Species 2000: Reading, UK.
  • a target="_blank| URMO: UNESCO-IOC Register of Marine Organisms. Release date: November 18, 2008]

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