Lepidisis Verrill, 1883

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 : 264-266

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Lepidisis Verrill, 1883


Genus Lepidisis Verrill, 1883

Lepidisis Verrill, 1883: 18 [pars]. Studer 1894: 62. Kükenthal 1915a: 117, 119; 1919: 569 [pars]; 1924: 417 [pars]. Deichmann 1936: 240-242 [pars]. Bayer 1956: F222 [pars]. Muzik 1978: 737. Grasshoff 1986: 30. Bayer 1989: 198, 201. Bayer 1990: 204, 205.

non Lepidisis Grant, 1976: 30 (= Keratoisis ).

Acanella Verrill, 1883: 13 [pars]. Wright and Studer 1889: 29 [pars].

Bathygorgia Wright, 1885: 691 (type species, Bathygorgia profunda Wright, 1885 by monotypy). Wright and Studer 1889: 32.

Ceratoisis Wright & Studer, 1889: 26 [pars]. Hickson 1907: 5 [pars]. Kükenthal 1915a: 120 [pars]; 1919: 585 [pars]; 1924: 423 [pars]. Deichmann 1936: 246 [pars].

Keratoisis Bayer, 1956: F222 [pars]. Tixier-Durivault 1966: 434 [pars]. Grant 1976: 15 [pars].

Type species.

Lepidisis caryophyllia Verrill, 1883; subsequent designation Kukenthal, 1915a ( L. caryophyllia accepted species; proposed synonymy for Lepidisis vitrea Verrill, 1883 has been accepted as shown in WoRMS Database, Cordeiro et al. 2019).

Type locality.

Generally, northern and western Atlantic Ocean; bathyal.

Type specimen(s).

Location of type unknown.

Material examined.

No specimens of this genus in collection of SBMNH.


Colonies simple, unbranched, or (rarely) sparsely branched from horny nodes; internodes hollow. In overall shape, whip-like, often exhibiting spiral growth form. Base root-like, for anchorage in deep-water bottoms of soft ooze or fine sand. Polyps non-retractile. Sclerites of polyps projecting needles and elongate scales.


No explanation was found for the rationale behind the naming of this genus; they are however, commonly called Sea whips.


A deep-water genus, likely found worldwide.


The apparent fragile and delicate nature of many deep-sea species of gorgonian in this suborder, including this genus, may demonstrate the relaxation of certain selection pressures in the deep sea, as proposed by Childress (1995) for deep-water forms. As well, many deep-water forms of Alcyonaria can be bioluminescent. This was certainly true for species described by Muzik (1978) seen in Hawaiian waters; further studies should reveal whether that feature is true of other members in this genus.


To date, there are approximately a dozen species recognized and accepted within the genus (Cordeiro et al. 2019); brief discussion is included based on location data for specimens collected (or at least noted) by both MBARI and NMNH. Both institutions have specimens that were either collected or note locations that put them in close proximity of, if not actually in, the California Bight, but only a very few described species have potential for being located within the region (although new species are certainly possible as deep-water sites are further explored). There are two specimens of interest housed at NMNH: one from California Channel Islands, San Nicolas Island, ~40 miles SW of the island, 32°31'08"N, 119°42'10"W, 950 m; coll. J Ljubenkov, no date given; USNM 59821 [wet], the other from California, Fieberling Guyot, W of Channel Islands, 32°27'36"N, 127°49'30"W, 640 m; coll. un-known, via submersible ‘Alvin’, 14 October 1990; USNM 94447 [wet]. A posted MBARI image showed a pink specimen from Davidson Seamount, at 2,683 m. MBARI data records indicated that approximately a dozen different samples have been taken, classified as belonging to this genus, with many more video-recorded sightings, in the vicinity of 32 –35– 37°N, 121 –122– 123°W. CAS has only three specimens, none of them from California waters; none of these specimens have been identified to species. This is a genus that requires further study; only with collection events south of Monterey Bay, in and near central California or some distance west of the northern California Channel Islands, will we know the extent to which members of this genus are present within the California Bight.

The description given by Studer, 1894 for Lepidisis inermis originally did not seem to fit with general characteristics ascribed to members of the genus. He did, however, in his description, mention similarities with Ceratoisis (Keratoisis) nuda Wright & Studer, 1889; this was later recognized as synonymous with Lepidisis nuda (Wright & Studer, 1889); the species L. inermis has branching from the internodes. It would appear that in some instances, sparse branching does occur in some species within the genus Lepidisis .