Pulsing Exenia

Pulsing Exenia
Pulsing Xenia, (Lamarck, 1816)
Xenia sp.

Native to: The Red SeaDescription: These soft octocorals are often shades of brown and tan, and can change colors slightly in different water chemistry. The “waving hand” part of the animals are the polyps. The parts of the polps which look like petals or small feathers are called pinnules. There are 8 pinnules on each polyp.

Feeding: These animals have very primitive “mouths” and do not feed. They receive most of their energy from the symbiotic relationship they have with photosynthesizing zooxanthellae(unicellular algae that lives within the corals tissue).

Special Notes: While no scientist claims to know “the” reason why these animals exhibit their pulsing behavior, there are many benefits of this behavior for the animals. While pulsing the polyps move water across their tissue allowing them to absorb certain elements from the water column which they need to construct new tissue. Also when the polyps are closed it allows parts of the animal below the polyps to be illuminated for photosynthesis. The least likely reason for the pulsing behavior though is feeding as these animals do not obtain energy through feeding.

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