Potentially Misidentified Species:
II. HABITAT AND
Leptogorgia virgulata occurs from New York and the Chesapeake Bay to
Florida and Brazil.
In the Indian River Lagoon, L. virgulata occurs on ledges, in inlets,
and intracoastal waterways.
III. LIFE HISTORY AND POPULATION BIOLOGY
Age, Size, Lifespan:
Shallow inshore and offshore populations of Leptogorgia virgulata
showed annual periodicity of concentric rings in the axial skeleton. However, no
differences were observed in growth increments of colonies from either site
(Mitchell 1993). Although spicule formation occurs throughout the colony, it is
most rapid at the branch tip (Kingsley & Watabe 1989).
Typical adult size of Leptogorgia virgulata
is 15 - 20 cm.
Common around the inlets of the IRL, and nearshore reefs.
IV. PHYSICAL TOLERANCES
Recorded temperatures for Leptogorgia
virgulata on nearshore reefs off Fort Pierce, FL ranged from 13 - 31 °C and
averaged 24.6 °C.
Salinity range for L. virgulata on nearshore reefs off Ft. Pierce, FL was
26 - 36.4 ppt.
V. COMMUNITY ECOLOGY
Suspension feeding on plankton and other small animals that come within
range of the polyp's tentacles.
Leptogorgia virgulata exhibits both inhibitors and inducers of
barnacle settlement (Standing et al 1984). Barnacle settlement inhibitors of L.
virgulata are also effective against bryozoan larval settlement (Rittschof
et al 1988). Antifouling agents against a benthic marine diatom are also
exhibited by L. virgulata (Targett et al 1983). Laboratory experiments
indicate that the combination of calcium carbonate spicules and secondary metabolites are effective against fish predation (Gerhart et al 1988). In
addition, emitic properties of secondary metabolites from L. virgulata
have induced learned aversions in several species of fish (Gerhart 1991).
Preferred substrata for Leptogorgia virgulata are rock and limestone
ledges. Depth range is 3 - 20 meters.
Associated species of Leptogorgia virgulata, occurring in a Thalassia
testudinum meadow were dominated by a caprellid amphipod Caprella
penantis, particularly when the seagrass dies off during the winter. When Caprella
densities decreased on Leptogorgia, postlarval and decapod crustaceans
increased (Caine 1983).
VI. SPECIAL STATUS
Report by: J. Dineen,
Smithsonian Marine Station
with thanks to J. Reed, HBOI
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Page last updated: July 25, 2001