Antipatharians of the Mesophotic Zone: Four Case Studies

  • Marzia BoEmail author
  • Anthony D. Montgomery
  • Dennis M. Opresko
  • Daniel Wagner
  • Giorgio Bavestrello
Part of the Coral Reefs of the World book series (CORW, volume 12)


About 63% of the known antipatharian genera occur at mesophotic depths (30–150 m), with the majority extending into the deep sea. Along the continental shelf and offshore sites, antipatharians tend to increase in diversity and abundance with depth, reaching a peak at mesophotic depths due to favorable environmental factors enhancing their settlement and growth and biotic factors associated with lower levels of competition for space. A review of taxonomic and ecological studies for shallow and mesophotic antipatharians is presented for four regionally based case studies, three in the tropics (1) Central Indo-Pacific, plus adjacent sections of the Western Indo-Pacific, (2) Eastern Indo-Pacific (primarily Hawaiʻi), and (3) the Caribbean Sea) and one at temperate latitudes in the Mediterranean Sea and adjacent sections of the Northeast Atlantic. The mesophotic fauna is mainly represented by the families Antipathidae, Aphanipathidae, and Myriopathidae. The most diverse community is found in the Central/Western Indo-Pacific, followed by the Caribbean Sea. The tropical antipatharians are represented by shallow species that extend their distribution into the upper mesophotic zone (30–60 m), while the temperate antipatharians consist of deepwater (> 150 m) species that extend upward into the lower part of the mesophotic zone. Black corals in mesophotic coral ecosystems can be habitat-forming components of benthic assemblages on hard substratum. They have an enormous potential for hidden biodiversity and play an important ecological role for the broader marine ecosystem. The threats to antipatharians consist of demersal fishing activities and coral harvesting, which may be highly destructive to these poorly understood systems.


Mesophotic coral ecosystems Black corals Diversity Distribution Threats 



DMO is a Research Associate of the Smithsonian Institution and gratefully acknowledges that affiliation. The findings and conclusions in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Authors would like to thank editors Tom Bridge and Kimberly Puglise and referees for their helpful suggestions during the revision process.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marzia Bo
    • 1
    Email author
  • Anthony D. Montgomery
    • 2
    • 3
  • Dennis M. Opresko
    • 4
  • Daniel Wagner
    • 5
  • Giorgio Bavestrello
    • 1
  1. 1.Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra, dell’Ambiente e della VitaUniversità degli Studi di GenovaGenoaItaly
  2. 2.U.S. Fish and Wildlife ServicePacific Islands Fish and Wildlife OfficeHonoluluUSA
  3. 3.Hawaiʻi Institute of Marine BiologyUniversity of Hawaiʻi at MānoaKāneʻoheUSA
  4. 4.National Museum of Natural HistorySmithsonian InstitutionWashington, DCUSA
  5. 5.JHT Inc., NOAA National Centers for Coastal Ocean ScienceCharlestonUSA

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