Bubblegum Coral | Oceana Canada

Canadian Marine Life Encyclopedia

Bubblegum Coral

Paragorgia arborea

Distribution

Sub-polar to polar waters in the North Atlantic and North-eastern Pacific

Ecosystem/Habitat

Hard or soft sediment in areas with strong currents

Feeding Habits

Filter feeder

Conservation Status

Not listed

Taxonomy

Class Anthozoa (corals, anemones & relatives); Order Alcyonacea (soft corals)

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Bubblegum corals are one of the largest coral species found in North America. They get their name  from their appearance: they are often bright pink and the polyps at the end of their branches resemble wads of gum. These polyps are individual animals that make up the coral colony. Bubblegum corals are cold, deep-water corals that rely on filter feeding. Each polyp has eight tentacles, which usually emerge at night to feed. The tentacles capture prey, such as plankton, that drift by in the ocean currents.

Bubblegum corals are typically a pinkish colour but they can be found in a range of colours such as red, orange and white. They grow up to six metres in height, with large, fanning branches. Each coral is a colony made up of hundreds of polyps, or individual animals. Their habitat is very different than the tropical, warm, shallow-water corals so they have unique behaviours that allow them to adapt. Tropical corals form symbiotic relationships with tiny algae called zooxanthellae, which create energy from sunlight to help feed the corals. Cold, deep-water corals do not have access to the sun’s energy, so species like bubblegum corals rely on filter-feeding. Each polyp has eight tentacles, which usually emerge at night to feed. The tentacles capture prey, such as plankton, that drift by in the ocean currents. The tentacles are also used for reproduction. The colony is supported by a “skeleton” made up of tightly-grouped calcareous spicules (needle-like skeletal parts).