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Tall Sea Pen

Funiculina quadrangularis (Pallas 1766)

Biology

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The tall sea pen is colonial (1), often occurring in dense 'forests' (3). This species is a passive suspension feeder, taking in plankton and organic particles from the water column with the tentacles (3). The sexes are separate, with male and female polyps occurring in separate colonies on different sea pens (1). The tall sea pen can play host to a brittlestar (Asteronyx loveni), which encircles it with its arms in order to cling on, and an isopod (Astacilla lonicornis) (1).
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Conservation

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The tall sea pen is a UK Biodiversity Action Plan priority species, as such a Species Action Plan has been produced to guide its conservation (2). This plan aims to maintain the current distribution of the species (2). No conservation action has so far been directed at this species, but it does occur in a candidate marine Special Conservation Area and marine consultation areas, which should aid its protection, at least in a few sites (2).
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Description

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Sea pens are colonial organisms that belong to the same group as corals and sea anemones (3). Each animal comprises of a colony of soft-bodied polyps, which occur along a stiffened (3) calcareous middle section, called an 'axis' or 'rachis' (3). The tall sea pen is the largest of the three sea pens that occur around the British Isles (2). It is very narrow, with a white axis that is square in cross-section (1). The polyps have eight tentacles (3), are pale pink or white in colour and occur irregularly along the axis or in rows in places (1).
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Habitat

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Lives attached to soft mud plains that are permanently covered by seawater (2), with a preference for sheltered coasts, especially sea lochs, in depths of between 20 and 2000 metres (1).
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Range

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In Great Britain, this species is found off the west and north coasts of Scotland (1). It also occurs off the west and north of Ireland, in the North Atlantic and the Mediterranean, with further records from Japan and New Zealand (1).
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Status

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Not protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. A UK Biodiversity Action Plan priority species (2).
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Threats

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This sea pen has fairly precise habitat requirements; the need for soft, undisturbed mud may be responsible for limiting the distribution of the species. In some otherwise suitable habitats the tall sea pen is absent, and it is thought that trawling may have removed colonies. Furthermore, where the species occurs in isolated sea lochs, water exchange with the open sea may be restricted; any pollutants are particularly damaging as their effects are concentrated within the loch (2).
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Funiculina quadrangularis

provided by wikipedia EN

Funiculina quadrangularis, commonly known as tall sea pen, is an uncommon cold water coral within the Family Funiculinidae.[1] It is named tall sea pen because it looks like a quill sticking in the bottom of the sea. It forms habitat for several key crustacean species.[2]

Morphology

F. quadrangularis’s appearance is often described as feather-like. More specifically, they look like a quill sticking in the seabed. They are anchored by a peduncle as its base and they have a calcareous axial rod growing upward with polyps arising from it. Each polyps has eight tentacles.[3] They can grow up to 2 meters with up to a quarter of the axis embedded in the sediment.[1]

Distribution

The tall sea pen can be found globally. They are most commonly found in sea lochs and open waters of the northwest coast of Scotland, mainly found with a depth below 20m to 2000m.[1] They have a patchy distribution around the UK, on the northwest coast of Scotland and Ireland.[2] They are also distributed in coastal waters of the North Atlantic and Mediterranean, New Zealand, Japan and the Gulf of Mexico. However, the abundance of this specie is low due to the high trawling intensity.

Reproduction

The tall sea pan is dioecious, which means that they have the male and females reproductive organs in separate individuals. The females will develop one oocyte each time throughout the year. With a sex ratio of 1:1 of males to females in a population, spawning occurs in the midwinter. They have a large pool of offspring with a survival rate of about 10%. It is still unclear why they have this distinct patter of oogenesis and winter spawning. Some are guessing that it is due to the influence of environmental cues and this tall sea pen’s deep-sea habitat.[4] Since the distribution and sensitivity to bottom fishing activities is very limited, tall sea pen reduce in population number which may lead to genetic isolation and reduced diversity.[2]

Ecological role

Sea pens are home to many secondary polyps that are either specialized in either feeding or water intake.[5] They are associated with the brittle star Asteronyx lovenii, and their colonis have been observed as a nurseries for fish larve.[6][7]

Threats

The greatest threat to the survival of F. quadrangularis colonies is demersal fishing activities. This species has very limited distribution that it is restricted to the deep basins, sensitivity to bottom fishing activities, and low resilience to physical disturbance which make them vulnerable to fishing activities. Trawling often happens at places where Norway lobsters and shrimps are present; F. quadrangularis is a typical species of essential habitat for these species. Since F. quadrangularis has a rigid axial rod that is unable to withdraw into the sediment unlike other UK sea pen species, bottom trawling would cause F. quadrangularis significant physical disturbance. As a result, F. quadrangularis is decreasing in population numbers which may lead them to genetic isolation and reduced diversity. However, F. quadrangularis can have resilience to human impacts if distant populations have a high connectivity since they could have a higher genetic diversity and a higher geneflow.[2][4]

Conservation

F. quadrangularis is considered to be nationally rare and are a high conservation significance specie.

In the UK

The tall sea pen is a Species of Principal Importance under the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act, 2006, UK. It is also on the Biodiversity Action Plan list of Priority Species.[2][8]

In Mediterranean

The tall sea pen is a sensitive and essential fish habitat since it forms habitat for several commercially important crustaceans.

References

  1. ^ a b c Greathead, Clare F.; Donnan, David W.; Mair, James M.; Saunders, Graham R. (18 October 2007). "The sea pens Virgularia mirabilis, Pennatula phosphorea and Funiculina quadrangularis: distribution and conservation issues in Scottish waters". Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the UK. 87 (5): 1095–1103. doi:10.1017/S0025315407056238. S2CID 86843868.
  2. ^ a b c d e Wright, Erin P.; Kemp, Kirsty; Rogers, Alex D.; Yesson, Chris (September 2015). "Genetic structure of the tall sea pen Funiculina quadrangularis in NW Scottish sea lochs". Marine Ecology. 36 (3): 659–667. Bibcode:2015MarEc..36..659W. doi:10.1111/maec.12174.
  3. ^ Hughes, D.J. (1998). "An Overview of Dynamics and Sensitivity Characteristics for Conservation Management of Marine Sacs". Scottish Association for Marine Science, Oban (UK Marine SACs Project). 105.
  4. ^ a b Edwards, Daniel C.B.; Moore, Colin G. (March 2009). "Reproduction in the sea pen Funiculina quadrangularis (Anthozoa: Pennatulacea) from the west coast of Scotland". Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science. 82 (1): 161–168. Bibcode:2009ECSS...82..161E. doi:10.1016/j.ecss.2009.01.006.
  5. ^ "Phosphorescent sea pen". www.wildlifetrusts.org. The Wildlife Trusts. Retrieved 2020-04-13.
  6. ^ Fujita T., Ohta S. (1988). "Photographic observations of the life style of a deep-sea ophiuroid Asteronyx loveni (Echinodermata)". Deep-Sea Research. 35 (12): 2029–2043. Bibcode:1988DSRA...35.2029F. doi:10.1016/0198-0149(88)90123-9.
  7. ^ Baillon S., Mamel J.F., Wareham V.E., Mercier A. (2012). "Deep cold-water corals as nurseries for fish larvae". Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. 10 (7): 351–356. doi:10.1890/120022.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  8. ^ "Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006".
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Funiculina quadrangularis: Brief Summary

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Funiculina quadrangularis, commonly known as tall sea pen, is an uncommon cold water coral within the Family Funiculinidae. It is named tall sea pen because it looks like a quill sticking in the bottom of the sea. It forms habitat for several key crustacean species.

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