Corallium rubrum

Corallium rubrum (Linnaeus, 1758)

Languages: English

Overview

Brief Summary

“The precious red coral Corallium rubrum (L., 1758) lives in the Mediterranean Sea and adjacent Eastern Atlantic Ocean on subtidal hard substrates. Corallium rubrum is a long-lived gorgonian coral that has been commercially harvested since ancient times for its red axial calcitic skeleton and which, at present, is thought to be in decline because of overexploitation.” (Costantini et al., 2010)

Author(s): Soulanille, Elaine
Rights holder(s): Soulanille, Elaine

Conservation and Management

Conservation Status

Likely over-harvested in its shallow-water habitats.

Listed by the European Commission on the Environment as “Annex V” = animal & plant species of community interest whose taking in the wild and exploitation may be subject to management measures.

(http://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/legislation/habitatsdirective/index_en.htm).

Author(s): Soulanille, Elaine
Rights holder(s): Soulanille, Elaine

Legislation

The European Commission on the Environment has listed Corallium rubrum in Annex V of the Habitats Directive.  Annex V = an “animal or plant species of community interest whose taking in the wild and exploitation may be subject to management measures” In 1994 the European Union banned the harvest of Corallium in the Mediterranean via dredging equipment.

(http://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/legislation/habitatsdirective/index_en.htm).

Author(s): Soulanille, Elaine
Rights holder(s): Soulanille, Elaine

Threats

Threats to populations of Corallium rubrum include water temperature anomalies, over-harvest, and destructive fishing practices. During the late summer of 1999, unusually high temperatures may have been the cause of both the mass mortality of the corals and the drastic reduction in settlement of new recruits (Bramanti et al., 2005). The popularity of Corallium rubrum in jewelry has resulted in the unsustainable harvest of easily accessible populations (Santiangelo & Abbiati, 2001; Oral, 2010). In addition, fishing practices like trawling damage or destroy the coral (Oral, 2010).

Author(s): Soulanille, Elaine
Rights holder(s): Soulanille, Elaine

Description

Life Cycle

Long-lived and slow-growing – a few centimeters per year.

Author(s): Soulanille, Elaine
Rights holder(s): Soulanille, Elaine

Diagnostic Description

  • Branching colonies with rigid skeleton of intermeshed calcium carbonate spicules, colored red (or sometimes pink) by carotenoid pigments -- branching may be relatively sparse or quite dense, resulting in a bushy shape
  • In living colony, skeleton overlaid by soft-tissue integument
  • Short and hemispheric calyces distributed on branches
  • In living colonies, extended radially symmetrical polyps are translucent-white, with eight tentacles and fine pinnules but without sclerites

(Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2011)

Author(s): Soulanille, Elaine
Rights holder(s): Soulanille, Elaine

Ecology

Habitat

Corallium rubrum lives on rocky substrates at depths from 20 to 200 m (or 15 to 300 m), generally in areas of relatively low light ((Zibrowius et al., 1984; Costantini et al., 2010; UN-FAO, 2011). Recently, however, live colonies have been found in the Strait of Sicily at depth of about 600 to 800 m (Costantini et al., 2010).

Author(s): Soulanille, Elaine
Rights holder(s): Soulanille, Elaine

Ecology

“…populations of this slow-growing long-lived octocoral exhibit a high capacity for colonization and seem to be quite resilient to environmental variability.” (Bramanti et al., 2005)

Author(s): Soulanille, Elaine
Rights holder(s): Soulanille, Elaine

Distribution

Near shore waters of the Canary and Cape Verde islands, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, along the north coast of the Mediterranean Sea from western Greece to Spain, including Corsica, Sardinia and Sicily, and north into the Atlantic along the coast of Portugal (Zibrowius et al., 1984; UN-FAO, 2011).

Author(s): Soulanille, Elaine
Rights holder(s): Soulanille, Elaine

Trophic Strategy

Corallium rubrum is a passive suspension feeder, with a diet based on small zooplankton (UN-FAO, 2011).  Feeding rates increase with water temperature and prey concentration, with an apparent preference for autotrophic flagellates (Picciano & Ferrier-Pagès, 2007).

Author(s): Soulanille, Elaine
Rights holder(s): Soulanille, Elaine

Natural Enemies

Populations of Corallium rubrum are infested by a variety of endobiotic boring sponges (UN-FAO, 2011).

Author(s): Soulanille, Elaine
Rights holder(s): Soulanille, Elaine

Relevance

Uses

Red coral has been used for thousands of years in jewelry and other ornamentation. Examples have been found from ancient Egypt and in graves in Wiesbaden, Germany from 25,000 years ago. It’s still very popular (and therefore, economically valuable) as jewelry and is also used by some who believe it’s effective as a homeopathic remedy for a variety of ailments.

Author(s): Soulanille, Elaine
Rights holder(s): Soulanille, Elaine

References

Abbiati, M., Buffoni G., Caforio G., Dicola G., & SANTANGELO G. (1992).  Harvesting, predation and competition effects on a red coral population. Netherlands Journal of Sea Research. 30, 219-228. Abstract
Bavestrello, G., Calcinai B., & Sarà M. (1996).  Delectona ciconiae sp. nov. (Porifera, Demospongiae) boring in the scleraxis of Corallium rubrum. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. 76(04), 867. Abstract
BRAMANTI, L., MAGAGNINI G., DEMAIO L., & SANTANGELO G. (2005).  Recruitment, early survival and growth of the Mediterranean red coral (L 1758), a 4-year study. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology. 314(1), 69 - 78. Abstract
BRAMANTI, L., Rossi S., Tsounis G., Gili J. M., & SANTANGELO G. (2007).  Settlement and early survival of red coral on artificial substrates in different geographic areas: some clues for demography and restoration. Hydrobiologia. 580, 219-224. Abstract
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Costantini, F., Fauvelot C., & Abbiati M. (2007).  Fine-scale genetic structuring in Corallium rubrum: evidence of inbreeding and limited effective larval dispersal. Marine Ecology Progress Series. 340, Abstract
Costantini, F., Taviani M., Remia A., Pintus E., Schembri P. J., & Abbiati M. (2010).  Deep-water Corallium rubrum (L., 1758) from the Mediterranean Sea: preliminary genetic characterisation. Marine Ecology. 31(2), 261 - 269. Abstract
Danovaro, R., Company J B., Corinaldesi C., D'Onghia G., Galil B., Gambi C., et al. (2010).  Deep-Sea Biodiversity in the Mediterranean Sea: The Known, the Unknown, and the Unknowable. PLoS ONE. 5(8), e11832.
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SANTANGELO, G., Carletti E., Maggi E., & BRAMANTI L. (2003).  Reproduction and population sexual structure of the overexploited Mediterranean red coral Corallium rubrum. Marine Ecology Progress Series. 248, 99-108. Abstract
TORRENTS, O. (2005).  Age and size at first reproduction in the commercially exploited red coral Corallium rubrum (L.) in the Marseilles area (France, NW Mediterranean). Biological Conservation. 121(3), 391 - 397. Abstract
Tsounis, G., Rossi S., Aranguren M., Gili J-M., & Arntz W. (2006).  Effects of spatial variability and colony size on the reproductive output and gonadal development cycle of the Mediterranean red coral (Corallium rubrum L.). Marine Biology. 148(3), 513 - 527. Abstract
Tsounis, G., Rossi S., Gili J-M., & Arntz W. (2006).  Population structure of an exploited benthic cnidarian: the case study of red coral (Corallium rubrum L.). Marine Biology. 149(5), 1059 - 1070. Abstract
Tsounis, G., Rossi S., Gili J-M., & Arntz W. E. (2007).  Red Coral Fishery at the Costa Brava (NW Mediterranean): Case Study of an Overharvested Precious Coral. Ecosystems. 10(6), 975 - 986. Abstract
Tsounis, G., Rossi S., Laudien J., Bramanti L., Fernández N., Gili J-M., et al. (2006).  Diet and seasonal prey capture rates in the Mediterranean red coral (Corallium rubrum L.). Marine Biology. 149(2), 313 - 325. Abstract
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Virgilio, M., Airoldi L., & Abbiati M. (2006).  Spatial and temporal variations of assemblages in a Mediterranean coralligenous reef and relationships with surface orientation. Coral Reefs. 25(2), 265 - 272. Abstract
Zibrowlus, H., Marques M. V., & Grasshoff M. (1984).  La repartition du Corallium rubrum dans l'Atlantique (Cnidaria: Anthozoa: Gorgonaria). Thethys. 11, 163-170. Abstract