Soft Coral Biodiversity in the Red Sea Family Alcyoniidae: A Biopharmaceutical and Ecological Perspective

  • Erick E. Dokalahy
  • H. R. El-Seedi
  • Mohamed Ali FaragEmail author
Part of the Sustainable Development and Biodiversity book series (SDEB, volume 24)


Seas cover over 70% of the Earth surface, and its total global biodiversity is estimated to have some 500 × 106 species of prokaryote and eukaryote organisms. Moreover, the Red Sea with a high percentage of endemic biota is an epicenter for marine biodiversity. Indeed, of the 180 soft coral species identified worldwide, approximately 40% are native to the Red Sea area. Such coral reef ecosystems support enormous biological diversity, including structural and functional complex benthic communities. The marine metabolome is quite complex, and its diversity exceeds that of mammals because the selection and retention of chemical diversity is a critical factor in an organism’s adaptation and fitness and a primary reason for the large number of natural products. Only a few thousand compounds have been reported from the Red Sea of marine origin, and hence, it is believed to have an enormous potential as a provider for new bioactive metabolites. Marine natural products display an extraordinary chemical and pharmacological scope. This could be attributed to their necessity to release secondary metabolites as their own chemical defense tools to survive in extreme environment, to resist their predators, or to provide chemical communication in symbiotic relationships. The growing interest in marine natural products, particularly in the area of anticancer compounds, is attributed to the urgent therapeutic need in this area. The biological and chemical research of the coral reefs has made a remarkable progress as reviewed herein yet the support information of the biodiversity, functions profile and ecological landscapes still to be acquired. This chapter overviews current research in octocoral order: Alcyonacea growing in the Red Sea area with focus on its medicinal potential within its chemical rich niche as well as their ecological functions. The chapter emphasizes also on the potential research areas for the marine natural products that are yet to be investigated.


Red sea Alcyoniidae Biopharmaceutical Ecological functions 



M. A. Farag acknowledges the funding received from the Alexander von Humboldt foundation, Germany. H. R. El-Seedi is very grateful to the Swedish Research links grant 2016-05885 (VR for the years 2017–2019) for generous financial support and to Jiangsu University, China for Adjunct Professor fellowship.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Erick E. Dokalahy
    • 1
  • H. R. El-Seedi
    • 2
    • 3
  • Mohamed Ali Farag
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Pharmacognosy DepartmentCollege of Pharmacy, Cairo UniversityCairoEgypt
  2. 2.Pharmacognosy Group, Department of Medicinal ChemistryUppsala University, Biomedical CentreUppsalaSweden
  3. 3.International Research Center for Food Nutrition and SafetyJiangsu UniversityZhenjiangChina

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