Examples of identifying species
Identifying a species can range from being very easy, to nearly impossible with the naked eye. Soft corals notoriously fall into the difficult to ID. As a result, we all need to be very cautious and avoid using assumptions when ID'ing a soft corals.
Below are some anatomy features to corals, as well as some examples of soft coral ID, to demonstrate the potential difficulty.
This is a very complex genus to ID as nearly all ID's require a macro shot of the poly area, or a microscope.
I have added one ID I believe to be accurate based on the description of the original document.
Below information is based on original description: Found here
There are 3 "types" of Dendronephthya; Glomerate, Divaricate and Umbellate as described below by the original description.
"Kükenthal has divided this difficult genus into three main groups: (I) Glomerate; (II) Divaricate; (III) Umbellate, giving precision to similar suggestions by previous workers such as Holm.
I. The Glomerate are characterized by:
II. The Divaricate are characterized by:
It should be noted that a Divaricate polyparium may have a continuous contour like that of a well-pruned tree (see diagram).
III. The Umbellate are characterized by:
a The umbel like or sometimes corymb like aggregates formed by terminal twigs, heads of the umbels being bundles of polyps
b The disposition of all or most of the polyp heads on the surface of the colony.
Identifying which is a Glomerate, Divaricate or Umbellate form is relatively simple. However, if one goes deeper into a single form, it will prove to be very difficult.
Here is an example of a specie I am reasonably certain is accurate, thanks to a great photo provided by Cornelis Opstal, via Dreamstime.com.
The Diagnosis of Dendronephthya suensoni, found on page 52 is as follows:
"Divaricate; outline irregular; not obviously flattened; polyps in little groups (4 - 10 ), distinctly scattered; polyps stalks medium; supporting bundle medium; point spicules one pair only, of which one member is a long projecting curved spindle associated with a much smaller one at its base; crown of some 6 rows of horizontally disposed spindles; grade VI; spicules: canal-walls show numerous forms with greatly developed thorns; colour: cortex and polyps have deep red spicules, polyps grey-yellow."