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Strange Coral: A Gallery of Sea Pens

Shrimp Stopover

Virgularia Sea Pen Coral Shrimp

(Image credit: Gary C. Williams, California Academy of Sciences)

A shrimp rests on the polyp leaves of this nocturnal Virgularia sea pen near Maricaban Island, Philippines. This sea pen measures about 4 inches (10.2 centimeters).

Deep Sea Dwellers

Umbellula Sea Pen Coral

(Image credit: Gary C. Williams, California Academy of Sciences)

While some sea pens live in shallow water, others inhabit the dark, cold depths. They have been found as deep as 20,013 feet (6,100 meters) underwater, where they wait in the dark for the rain of tiny, dead plankton. This Umbellula was take from water 1,020 feet deep (311 meters) off Lubang Island, Philippines.

Dark, Cold Depths

Sea Pen Umbellula Antarctica

(Image credit: Gary C. Williams, California Academy of Sciences)

This species of Umbellula lives in the pitch black water near Antarctica, where it grows to 10 feet (3 meters) long with a big head of polyps that is pushed along in the current.

Wynne Parry
Wynne was a reporter at The Stamford Advocate. She has interned at Discover magazine and has freelanced for The New York Times and Scientific American's web site. She has a masters in journalism from Columbia University and a bachelor's degree in biology from the University of Utah.