Diversity of Deep-Sea Corals

Sample the surprising diversity of deep-sea corals. See some of the ways they differ in color, shape, and size. Explore more in the multimedia feature "Coral Gardens of the Deep Sea."

Gerardia, or gold coral, species often have a tree-like shape, as evident in this specimen. :  Black corals often resemble bushes or trees. Their living tissue can be one of several colors. It’s the skeleton that is black.This bubblegum coral has a fanlike shape. It is growing 1,310 m (4,298 ft) deep on the Davidson Seamount.The pink strands of this coral harbor a variety of organisms. Sea whips are gorgonian corals, with flexible skeletons. Tree corals like this Calyptrophora bayer can grow several meters high and resemble brightly colored trees. A fan-shaped colony of red coral (Corallium sp.) provides a perch for three basket stars as they feed. This 200-year-old bamboo coral colony is growing on the Davidson Seamount. The skeleton has bamboo-like segments.A submersible’s robotic arm collects gold coral in the Hawaiian Islands. Similar specimens have been dated at more than 2,700 years old. Rockfish, anemones and other invertebrates inhabit this deep-sea coral reef in Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary. This species of bamboo coral, discovered in 2004 in the Pacific Northwest, has unusually long and impressive tentacles.Colorful corals and brittlestars on Manning Seamount off the New England coast.Orange and red deep-sea corals. This black coral is more than 4,200 years old. Named for the color of their skeletons, black corals come in many colors.: A thicket of Lophelia pertusa, a widespread deep sea coral, shelters a squat lobster. These deep-sea corals at the Madison-Swanson Marine Reserve are protected, along with the marine life they harbor. Marine scientists photographed and measured this gorgonian coral and deep-sea shrimp just as they were collected—together.