Bamboo coral is the common name for members of the family Isididae, class Anthozoa, subclass Octocorallia (the octocorals). Bamboo corals are deep-sea, long-lived, stiff-stalked corals with ridged joints that give them a segmented look akin to bamboo. Many species grow in straight stalks like bamboo, but others branch and fan out.

Bamboo corals are notable in that they often live on soft sediment on the sea bottom, and prefer the deep sea, especially seamounts. This makes them hard to research, and deep-sea expeditions discover entire new genera almost yearly. They have been observed growing over 5 feet tall and some specimens are believed to be ~4,000 years old, but lifespans of 75-125 are probably most common. Bamboos occupy a wide range of niches, often appearing in isolation along a comparatively barren stretch of seafloor, but sometimes living in giant tangled forests. They are found across the globe, from arctic to the tropics to the antarctic.

Bamboo corals, as with all octocorals, are not closely related to the true corals (AKA the stony corals), and lack a hard skeleton. Instead they have a softer, more flexible skeleton composed of microscopic spicules of calcium carbonate embedded in their tissues. The joints between segments are made from a harder, horny tissue made of gorgonin proteins.

Bamboo corals are often damaged by bottom trawling, and appear to be vulnerable to ocean acidification. As it is difficult to study these corals, it is uncertain what impact humans are having on their populations.


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