Leptogorgia filicrispa Horvath, 2011

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 II: Species of Holaxonia, families Gorgoniidae and Plexauridae, ZooKeys 860, pp. 67-182: 67

publication ID


publication LSID


persistent identifier


treatment provided by

ZooKeys by Pensoft

scientific name

Leptogorgia filicrispa Horvath, 2011


Leptogorgia filicrispa Horvath, 2011   Figures 19, 20, 21, 22 B–N

Leptogorgia filicrispa   Horvath, 2011: 45-52.

Type locality.

Mexico, Baja, California, off Boca Flor de Malva, SE of Punta Tosca, ~ 24°11'07.04"N, 111°21'03.08"W, 69-87 m.

Type specimens.

Holotype SBMNH 423057; [dry]; Paratypes SBMNH 423079 [dry]; USNM 1106683 [dry]; USNM 1106684 [dry]; USNM 1106685 [dry].

Material examined.

~9 lots (see Appendix 1: List of material examined).


Colony primarily unbranched; if branched, loosely and little branched in one plane, lateral or pinnate to subpinnate, occasionally dichotomous, not usually bushy; many long (~20-30 cm), slender (0.5-1.0 mm, excluding polyps), whip-like branches (many collected and, presumably, found together as shown in Figure 19), somewhat flattened but never greatly expanded to form lamellar ridges, with free ends more than 50 mm long. Branches very slender, somewhat sinuous from end to end, seeming to curve loosely back on themselves, like fine wire, yet stiff and brittle (Figure 20); tapering towards tips, also very slender. Branches likely grow from these tips; some strands with growth tip at both ends. With specimens available, base seen on several colonies (each colony usually a single strand with none, one or two branches) quite small, and usually affixed to a small rock or pebble; majority of colonies without a base. Not definitively known whether lack of a base (no attachment) is an artifact of collection, or common condition; those with attachment are a more rare situation (no attachment far more commonly seen in collected specimens). Axis very slender; ranging in color from black/dark brown to a translucent brown or reddish brown. Color of living colony, in situ, unknown. In all specimens examined, several uniform color phases were seen. Dry specimen strands exhibited color range from mauve to salmon pink to a much lighter cotton-candy pink to cream to pure white. Polyp-mounds small, conical projections (roughly 1.0 mm in height) on each side of branch (Figure 21); polyps not crowded (1.0-3.0 mm apart), arranged alternately in one or two lateral rows along sides of the branchlets. On some branches, a thin, medial line can be seen running down middle of the flattened branch, between alternate-situated polyps. Sclerites (Figure 22) are spindles, as described by Bayer (1956) for genus, typically with an absence of other specialized forms of sclerite. In this species, spindles thick, tapered; with warts low, rounded; with acute or subacute warted ends, extending beyond a second ring of warts on either side of median girdle. Long spindles generally symmetrical; some with warts on one side simple and conical, elsewhere more complicated. Very few shorter ones with warts of one side fused like those of disc spindles. Flat, tentacular sclerites large; on average sclerites can measure 0.1 mm long by 0.05 mm wide. Generally, sclerites without much color; if colored, typically light pink.


The species designation is derived from the Latin root fili- for thread, and the Latin root crispa- for curled or twisted; designation reflects overall strand appearance, which is thread-like, stiff and wiry; strands of this species reminiscent of the stiff, wiry, curled body of an adult horsehair worm.

Common name.

Multi-colored wire gorgonian.


Based on collection locations for specimens in SBMNH collection, LACoMNH collection and those examined in collection at NMNH, from at least Ventura, California south to coast of Baja, into Gulf of California. Perhaps southern end of the California Bight is the northern limit for this species.


A comment was made ( Grigg 1972) about gorgonian colonies having "a loosely branched and whip-like shape when located in circular basins where water flow is turbulent." Apparently this condition can be seen on shallow reefs to depths of 25 m ( Grigg 1972). In this instance, it is suspected that regardless of water motion, the species consistently displays this distinctly thread-like form. Noteworthy point: an Atlantic form, Leptogorgia stheno   Bayer, 1952, is normally unattached to any substrate; generally, many of the strands in the SBMNH material appear to exhibit that condition, as well. Having never seen this species in situ, and with no confirmed reports from other observers, thus far, nothing more can be stated about this species’ biology.


The species as described ( Horvath 2011), shown as an accepted species in Cordeiro et al. (2018c), had strong similarities to Leptogorgia setacea   Pallas, 1766 and shared many with L. stheno   Bayer, 1952, both of which are species found in the western Atlantic. Differences were apparent in geographic location, coloring of sclerites, and subtly, in branch diameter; may be a twin species of an Atlantic form. Based on numerous strands in the NMNH material as well as material from Boca Flor De Malva at SBMNH and LACoMNH (and two other examples, both dry that were examined [see Appendix 1: List of material examined, Other material examined], one specimen from SW Punta San Juanico, outer coast, Baja, California and the other from deep water off Redondo Beach, California, US), it is possible that this species is actually very common. While perhaps not very obvious, looking nothing like the standard of a sea fan (or even a sea whip), it is suspected that this species is routinely overlooked or regarded as nothing more than a batch of dead coralline algae. Further collection is necessary, and when found, depending on environmental conditions, the question of colonies attached or not should be addressed.