Isidella Gray, 1857

Horvath, Elizabeth Anne, 2019, A review of gorgonian coral species (Cnidaria, Octocorallia, Alcyonacea) held in the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History research collection: focus on species from Scleraxonia, Holaxonia, Calcaxonia - Part III: Suborder Holaxonia continued, and suborder Calcaxonia, ZooKeys 860, pp. 183-306 : 259-260

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Isidella Gray, 1857


Genus Isidella Gray, 1857

Isidella Gray, 1857 [1858]: 283; 1870: 14. Verrill 1883: 13. Studer [and Wright] 1887: 44. Kükenthal 1915a: 118; 1919: 564, 783; 1924: 414. Deichmann 1936: 239. Madsen 1944: 8. Bayer 1956: F222; 1981: 941 (key). Carpine and Grasshoff 1975: 107. Bayer and Stefani 1987a: 51 (key); 1987b: 941 (key). Bayer 1990: 207. Etnoyer 2008: 543. Brugler and France 2008: 126-127. Watling et al. 2011: 76, fig. 2.11. Dueñas et al. 2014: 20. Cairns 2018a: 37.

Isis. G. von Koch, 1887: 90 [description of Isis neapolitana Koch (= Isidella elongata [Esper, 1788])].

Type species.

Isis elongata Esper, 1788.

Type locality.

Generally, eastern North Atlantic; likely, Mediterranean Sea.

Type specimen.

Location of type specimen unknown.

Material examined.

2 lots (see Appendix 3: List of material examined.)


Colonies sparsely branched from horny nodes, dichotomously (at ~30-35° angle; also trichotomously or lateral), generally in one plane, thus colony usually open, flat and spreading; a candelabrum shape possible. Internodes long, with axis in preserved colonies white; axis of nodes orangey-gold/brown; coenenchyme colorless. Branching not in whorls; branches moderately slender; distance from one branch to next (thus from node to node, establishing internode length) long, 3.5-4.0 cm; calcareous internodes hollow (distal tips; solid at proximal ends), longitudinally grooved, straight (or nearly so); horny nodes three-pronged, 3.0-5.0 mm tall at joints of older branches, but a simple cylinder (~1.0 mm tall) at joints of younger branches. Base of main stem a calcareous root, lobate, for anchoring in soft substrate or discoid, calcareous holdfast for anchorage on hard substrate. Polyps non-retractile and cylindrical. Sclerites of polyps mostly long rodlets that do not project between bases of tentacles; or stout, slightly prickly needles. Verrill (unpublished personal note transcriptions made by Bayer) made reference to "girdled ellipses," which are elongated scales with rounded ends having a notable median constriction or emargination on each edge; these sclerites are normal in all Isididae .


All members of this genus are commonly called Bamboo coral, but no discussion of exact derivation could be found; genus has accepted status in the WoRMS Database (Cordeiro et al. 2019).


Deep water, likely worldwide; at depths averaging ~1,000 m (determined from collection records of various institutions, such as MBARI and NMNH).


Can grow to very large size, perhaps able to attain great age ( Andrews et al. 2005). Despite the calcareous nature of the internodes, as is true of many deep-sea gorgonians, species in this genus can be somewhat delicate and fragile. Quieter waters of the deep sea likely allow for the larger size.


Inclusion of the genus reflects locality data for the few collection and video records made by MBARI and NMNH off southern California. Of particular interest is USNM 1082174; specimen collection by D Clague (MBARI) on ‘Tiburon’ dive #630, 16 October 2003 (see Further remarks, below). No sclerite preparations could be done for specimens in SBMNH collection, as no coenenchyme tissue is present.

There are some six species recognized in this genus, according to Cordeiro et al. (2019); at least two are from the Atlantic. The species described by Bayer (1990), Isidella trichotoma , Etnoyer (2008), Isidella tentaculum , and Cairns (2018a), Isidella tenuis , are confirmed from the Pacific. As access to deeper areas becomes more common, it is certainly possible that new species will be found.

Of specimens examined at CAS, none were identified to species. One specimen came from California, Humboldt County, two were from Oregon and two were from Alaska. None (as able to determine) are recorded in web-posted MBARI images, but some two dozen-plus specimens have been sampled (with even more video observations made) by MBARI in a region encompassing an area just west of San Miguel Island in the northern California Channel Island group extending northward to an area SW of San Francisco (lat./long range = 34-37°N, 121-123°W). From the collection at NMNH, the one specimen (identified as Isidella tentaculum Etnoyer, 2008) is of interest; taken off California at Rodriquez Seamount, 34°01'26"N, 121°05'59"W, 846.9 m; USNM 1082174. The holotype for this species, is USNM 1076658, collected by P Etnoyer in the Gulf of Alaska, on Dickins Seamount, 7 August 2004 (see Etnoyer 2008). A paratype of this species is found in the SBMNH collection, SBMNH 369349 (Gulf of Alaska, Welker Seamount). Only further study with collection can determine how much further south members of this genus can range, and whether or not they are present in the California Bight.