Black coral (Leiopathes sp.)

Photo Credit: S.W. Ross and M. Rhode (UNCW)

Description: Although the exterior flesh can be several colors (red, white, orange) the internal skeleton of this coral is black. Black corals like this can live to be thousands of years old - one from the Gulf of Mexico was aged to be more than 2000 years old. These corals are a valuable tool for scientists because their skeletons contain rings, like trees. The rings have chemical signatures that allow scientists to learn about past ocean environments. Black corals have also been harvested for jewelry, a practice which is not sustainable.

Geographic Distribution

Figure 1: Relative probability of occurrence of Black coral (Leiopathes sp.) based on computer generated distribution maps. Data source: Aquamaps

Depth Profile

Figure 2: Approximate depth range of Black coral (black box). Slope of seafloor is a generalized representation of the Gulf of Mexico shelf and outer continental shelf.