Bubblegum coral

Bubblegum coral (Paragorgia arborea)

A bubblegum coral (Paragorgia arborea) seen at Pinnacle, west of the main seep sites at Southern Hydrate Ridge. Credit: UW/NSF-OOI/CSSF, Dive R2228, V22.

These soft corals in the family Paragorgiidae are commonly known as "bubblegum coral" because of the shape of their branch tips. They are mainly found between 200 and 1,300 meters (700 and 4,300 ft) water depth, in the Northern Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. They commonly grow on seamounts or rocky knolls, and are a foundation species, providing a habitat for other species in deep sea coral ecosystems.

Paragorgia arborea can grow to 6 meters (20 ft) in height, and are brightly colored white, red, or salmon, in a branching structure with a stronger central trunk and many finer branches with bulbous tips. They grow fairly slowly and (like many deep-sea corals) can live for decades or hundreds of years. These corals are carnivorous filter feeders, with specialized feeding polyps (autozoids) and reproductive polyps (siphonozoids). Although uncommon at Southern Hydrate Ridge main site, we saw a large number of these corals at Pinnacle, a large carbonate outcrop to the west.