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Incrusting gorgonian
Erythropodium polyanthes
(Duchassaing & Michelotti, 1860)

This is one of the two incrusting species of gorgonians in the Caribbean. It forms lumpy masses on rocks and dead coral or may incrust other species of living gorgonians, slowly killing them as it grows upward. The apertures and polyps are very large. When the polyps are retracted, this species is very inconspicuous and resembles an incrusting sponge. The thickness of the mat is about 1.0 cm.

The polyps are gray or brownish. The surface of the colony is purplish brown.

Primarily restricted to the patch reef environment.

Off Florida, Lesser Antilles.

The other incrusting gorgonian in the area, E. caribaeorum , can be distinguished from this species by its thinner mats (4 mm), smaller polyps and grayish color. It never incrusts gorgonians and is much rarer than E. polyanthes .

Incrusting gorgonian (Erythropodium polyanthes)