Quick Facts

Species Type

Native

Size

Up to 3 feet tall

Habitat

Grows on rocks, reefs, pilings, bulkheads and other hard surfaces from the low-tide line to deep waters

Range

Found in the salty waters of the lower Chesapeake Bay.

Diet

Suspension feeder; feeds on plankton and other tiny particles

Conservation Status

Stable

Appearance

Whip coral can grow to three feet tall. Its long, slender, whip-like branches are covered with coral polyps, which look like tiny, white dots against the coral's skeleton. It varies in color from yellow, tan or orange to deep purple.

Feeding

Whip coral is a suspension feeder which means it feeds on organic matter suspended in the water. Each polyp has eight feathery, saw-toothed tentacles that periodically emerge to sweep plankton and other tiny particles into the coral’s body.

Reproduction and Life Cycle

Unlike other corals, whip coral reproduces sexually by external fertilization. After hatching, free-swimming larvae float in the water for three to 20 days. Larvae eventually settle to the bottom and search for a hard surface to attach themselves to. After attaching, larvae morph into a form that more closely resembles adults.

Did You Know?

  • Whip coral is also known as the sea whip. It is related to hydroids and anemones
  • Jean-Baptiste Lamarck first described whip coral in 1815 and gave the coral its scientific name.
  • Whip coral provides important habitat for fish such as black sea bass.

Sources and Additional Information