Sea pens | Oceana Canada

Canadian Marine Life Encyclopedia

Sea pens



Range depends on species, some are circumglobal while others are more restricted


Sandy or muddy bottoms

Feeding Habits

Filter feeder

Conservation Status

Not listed


Class Anthozoa (corals, anemones & relatives); Order Pennatulacea (sea pens)


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Sea pens are colonial corals. Like their relatives, sea pens are made up of a colony of several polyps (individual animals). What makes them unique among colonial corals is that each polyp is specialized to perform specific functions. One of their polyps develops into a rigid, erect stalk, which anchors the rest of the colony to the ocean floor. This gives many sea pens an appearance similar to a large feather or old-fashioned quill pen, which is how they got their name.

There are numerous species of sea pens that can be found in all of Canada’s oceans (Pacific, Arctic and Atlantic), however none have been assessed by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) or listed under the Species at Risk Act (SARA). There is still much to learn about sea pens, especially since many species have yet to be identified and classified and are only known at the family or genus level of scientific classification.