The family Alcyoniidae includes soft corals in which the polyps are contained in fleshy, membranous, or lobed masses. Polyps are dimorphic in some genera and monomorphic in others, and they are mostly evenly distributed, though they may be confined to a polyparium or capitulum that is separate from a polypless stalk. There are approximately twenty genera worldwide. See chapter one for more information on colony organization and shapes.
Genus: Alcyonium Linnaeus, 1758
* Formerly known as Cladiella in aquarium literature. Cladiella is a separate but similar genus. The origin of the name Alcyonium is derived from the coral's resemblance to a type of sponge, Alkyo-nium, which was named for its resemblance to the nest of the Kingfisher bird, Alkyon, from the Greek (Williams, 1993).
Colour: Pale browrn, dark brown, or gray. The polyps are darker than the pale stalk. Occasionally colonies have green or blue hue.
Distinguishing Characteristics: Alcyonium are slimy to the touch, and have polyps that appear to be generated on the lower portions of the stalk, developing as they migrate upward. The distinction between some species of Alcyonium and some species of Cladiella is quite blurry based on gross morphology. One must examine the sclerites to be certain.
Similar Genera: Alcyonium is quite similar to Cladiella, so it is not surprising that confusion exists between these genera. Some slimy species of Sinularia are also quite similar to Alcyonium when expanded. Some expanded Alcyonium could be confused with Nephthea, Lemnalia, or Capnella, but Alcyonium is slimy to the touch while the three mentioned nephtheids have a rough texture because of their abundant large sclerites.
This Alcyonium "Colt Coral," in the aquarium trade, has beautiful bushy polyps and a pale stalk.
Another variety of Alcyonium known as Colt coral. J. C. Delbeek
Alcyonium is a very diverse genus; some species are nearly identical to each other while others are so different they seem like other genera. J. C. Delbeek
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