Skip to main content Skip to main navigation menu Skip to site footer
Published: 2017-11-07

The black coral fauna (Cnidaria: Antipatharia) of Bermuda with new records

JHT Incorporated, NOAA National Centers of Coastal Ocean Science, 219 Fort Johnston Road, Charleston, SC 29412, USA.
JHT Incorporated, NOAA National Centers of Coastal Ocean Science, 219 Fort Johnston Road, Charleston, SC 29412, USA.
Coelenterata Antipathidae Aphanipathidae deep-sea coral mesophotic coral ecosystem Myriopathidae


The black coral fauna of Bermudan waters is poorly known, in large part due to the logistical challenges of surveying deep-water (>50 m) environments where most species occur. In 2016, the Nekton Expedition sought to survey the deep-water biodiversity around Bermuda using manned submersibles and mixed-gas technical SCUBA. A total of 28 black coral specimens were collected, and these were examined based on skeletal spine morphology, polyp morphology, colony branching pattern and in situ photographs. The specimens were assigned to seven species in three families and four genera, including (1) Antipathes atlantica Gray, 1857, (2) Antipathes furcata Gray, 1857, (3) Stichopathes pourtalesi Brook, 1889, (4) Stichopathes sp., (5) Distichopathes filix (Pourtales, 1867), (6) Tanacetipathes hirta (Gray, 1857), and (7) Tanacetipathes tanacetum (Pourtales, 1867). Of these, three species (Stichopathes sp., S. pourtalesi, and D. filix), one genus (Distichopathes) and one family (Aphanipathidae) are reported from Bermudan waters for the first time, thereby increasing the known black coral diversity of Bermuda to twelve species, five genera and four families. The diagnostic characters of the taxa identified as part of this study are illustrated and described.



  1. Bo, M. (2008) Taxonomy and ecology of antipatharians. Universita Politecnica Delle Marche, Ancona, 212 pp.

    Bo, M., Bavestrello, G., Barucca, M., Makapedua, D.M., Poliseno, A., Forconi, M., Olmo, E. & Canapa, A. (2012) Morphological and molecular characterization of the problematic whip hlack coral genus Stichopathes (Hexacorallia: Antipatharia) from Indonesia (North Sulawesi, Celebes Sea). Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, 166, 1–13.

    Bo, M. & Opresko, D.M. (2015) Redescription of Stichopathes pourtalesi Brook, 1889 (Cnidaria: Anthozoa: Antipatharia: Antipathidae). Brevoria, 540, 1–18.

    Brito, A. & Ocaña, O. (2004) Corales de las Islas Canarias: antozoos con esqueleto de los fondos litorales y profundos. La Laguna, Tenerife, 475 pp.

    Brook, G. (1889) Report on the Antipatharia. Report of the scientific results of the voyage of the H.M.S. Challenger. Zoology, 32, 1–222.

    Brugler, M.R. & France, S.C. (2007) The complete mitochondrial genome of the black coral Chrysopathes formosa (Cnidaria: Antozoa: Antipatharia) supports classification of antipatharians within the subclass Hexacorallia. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 42, 776–788.

    Brugler, M.R., Opresko, D.M. & France, S.C. (2013) The evolutionary history of the order Antipatharia (Cnidaria: Anthozoa: Hexacorallia) as inferred from mitochondrial and nuclear DNA: implications for black coral taxonomy and systematics. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, 169, 312–361.

    Cairns, S.D. (2007) Deep-water corals: an overview with special reference to diversity and distribution of deep-water scleractinian corals. Bulletin of Marine Science, 81, 311–322.

    Cairns, S.D., Opresko, D.M. & Hopkins, T.S. (1993) New records of deep-water Cnidaria (Scleractinia & Antipatharia) from the Gulf of Mexico. Northeast Gulf Science, 13, 1–11.

    Echeverria, C.A. (2002) Black corals (Cnidaria: Anthozoa: Antipatharia): first records and a new species from the Brazilian coast. Revista de Biologia Tropical, 50, 1067–1077.

    Ehrenberg, C.G. (1834) Beiträge zur Kenntniß der Corallenthiere im allgemeinen, und besonders des rothen Meeres, nebst einem Versuche zur physiologischen Systematik derselben. Abhandlungen der Königlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin, 1832, 225–380.

    France, S.C., Brugler, M.R & Opresko, D.M. (2007) Order Antipatharia. Zootaxa, 1668, 136–138.

    Gray, J.E. (1857) Synopsis of the families and genera of axiferous zoophytes or barked corals. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London, 25, 278–294.

    Gray, J.E. (1860) Notice of some new corals from Madeira discovered by J. Y. Johnson, Esq. Annals and Magazine of Natural History, Series 3, 6, 311.

    Locke, J.M., Coates, K.A. & Bilewich, J.P. (2013) Scleractinia, Octocorallia and Antipatharia of Bermuda’s reefs and deep-water coral communities: a taxonomic perspective including new records. In: Sheppard, C.R.C. (Ed.), Coral Reefs of the United Kingdom Overseas Territories, Coral Reefs of the World. Vol. 4. Springer, Dordrecht, pp. 189–200.

    Loiola, L.L. & Castro, C.B. (2005) Tanacetipathes Opresko, 2001 (Cnidaria: Antipatharia: Myriopathidae) from Brazil, including two new species. Zootaxa, 1081, 1–31.

    Opresko, D.M. (1972) Redescriptions and reevaluations of the antipatharians described by L.F. de Pourtales. Bulletin of Marine Science, 22, 950–1017.

    Opresko, D.M. (2001) Revision of the Antipatharia (Cnidaria: Anthozoa). Part I. Establishment of a new family, Myriopathidae. Zoologische Mededelingen Leiden, 75, 343–370.

    Opresko, D.M. (2002) Revision of the Antipatharia (Cnidaria: Anthozoa). Part II. Schizopathidae. Zoologische Mededelingen Leiden, 76, 411–442.

    Opresko, D.M. (2003) Revision of the Antipatharia (Cnidaria: Anthozoa). Part III. Cladopathidae. Zoologische Mededelingen Leiden, 77, 495–536.

    Opresko, D.M. (2004) Revision of the Antipatharia (Cnidaria: Anthozoa). Part IV. Establishment of a new family, Aphanipathidae. Zoologische Mededelingen Leiden, 78, 209–240.

    Opresko, D.M. (2005) New genera and species of antipatharian corals (Cnidaria: Anthozoa) from the North Pacific. Zoologische Mededelingen Leiden, 79–2, 129–165.

    Opresko, D.M. (2006) Revision of the Antipatharia (Cnidaria: Anthozoa). Part V. Establishment of a new family, Stylopathidae. Zoologische Mededelingen Leiden, 80–4, 109–138.

    Opresko, D.M. (2009) Antipatharia (Cnidaria) of the Gulf of Mexico. In: Tunnell, J.W. Jr., Felder, D.L. & Earle, S.A. (Eds.), Gulf of Mexico origin, waters, and biota. Vol. 1. Biodiversity. Texas A&M University Press, Corpus Christi, 359–363.

    Opresko, D.M. & Baron-Szabo, R.C. (2001) Re-descriptions of the antipatharian corals described by E.J.C. Esper with selected English translations of the original German text (Cnidaria, Anthozoa, Antipatharia). Seckenbergiana biologica, 81, 1–21.

    Opresko, D.M. & Cairns, S.D. (1994) Description of the new genus Allopathes (Cnidaria: Antipatharia) and its type species Cirripathes desbonni. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, 107, 185–192.

    Opresko, D.M., Nuttall, M.F. & Hickerson, E.L. (2016) Black corals of the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. Gulf of Mexico Science Science, 2016, 47–67.

    Opresko, D.M. & Sanchez, J.A. (2005) Caribbean shallow-water black corals (Cnidaria: Anthozoa: Antipatharia). Caribbean Journal of Science, 41, 492–507.

    Padilla, C. & Lara, M. (2003) Banco Chinchorro: the last shelter for black coral in the Mexican Caribbean. Bulletin of Marine Science, 73, 197–202.

    Pallas, P.S. (1766) Elenchus zoophytorum sistens generum adumbrationes generaliores et specierum cognitarum succinctas descriptiones cum selectis auctorum synonymis. Hagae-Comitum, Frankfurt am Main, 500 pp.

    Pasternak, F.A. (1977) Antipatharia. Galathea Report. Scientific reports of the Danish deep-sea expedition round the world 19501952, 14, 157–164.

    Pax, F. (1918) Die Antipatharien. Zoologische Jahrbücher - Abteilung für Systematik, Ökologie und Geographie der Thiere, 41, 419–479.

    Perez, C.D., Costa, D.L. & Opresko, D.M. (2005) A new species of Tanacetipathes from Brazil, with a redescription of the type species T. tanacetum (Pourtales) (Cnidaria, Anthozoa, Antipatharia). Zootaxa, 890 (1), 1–12.

    Pourtales, L.F. de (1867) Contributions to the fauna of the Gulf Stream at great depths. Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, 1, 103–142.

    Pourtales, L.F. de (1868) Contributions to the fauna of the Gulf Stream at great depths. Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, 2, 103–120.

    Pourtales, L.F .de (1871) Deep-sea corals. Illustrated catalogue of the museum of comparative zoology at Harvard College, 4, 52–55.

    Pourtales, L.F. de (1880) Zoological results of the Blake expedition to the Caribbean Sea. Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University, 6, 113–118.

    Sanchez, J.A. (1999) Black coral-octocoral distribution patterns on Imelda Bank, a deep-water reef, Colombia, Caribbean Sea. Bulletin of Marine Science, 65, 215–225.

    Sanchez, J.A., Zea, S. & Diaz, J.M. (1998) Patterns of octocoral and black coral distribution in the oceanic barrier reef-complex of Providencia Island, Southwestern Caribbean. Caribbean Journal of Science, 34, 250–264.

    Van Pesch, A.J. (1914) The Antipatharians of the Siboga Expedition. E.J. Brill Publishers and Printers, Leyden, 316 pp.

    Wagner, D., Brugler, M.R., Opresko, D.M., France, S.C., Montgomery, A.D. & Toonen, R.J. (2010) Using morphometrics, in situ observations and genetic characters to distinguish among commercially valuable Hawaiian black coral species; a redescription of Antipathes grandis Verrill, 1928 (Antipatharia : Antipathidae). Invertebrate Systematics, 24, 271–290.

    Wagner, D., Luck, D.G. & Toonen, R.J. (2012) The biology and ecology of black corals (Cnidaria: Anthozoa: Hexacorallia: Antipatharia). Advances in Marine Biology, 63, 67–132.

    Warner, G.F. (1981) Species descriptions and ecological observations of black corals (Antipatharia) from Trinidad. Bulletin of Marine Science, 31, 147–163.

    Warner, G.F. (2005) The occurrence of black corals in Jamaican reef environments, with special reference to Stichopathes lutkeni (Antipatharia: Antipathidae). Revista de Biologia Tropical, 53, 61–66.