They are soft corals and are related to tropical corals and anemones. They are colonial animals (polyps) which use a shared common body to the good of all. This structure allows the anemone-like polyps to gain better access to the food particles in the water. Sea fans are usually found in much warmer waters and exist around Lundy at almost their northern-most extent. The young of sea fans are able to travel long distances using water currents to transport themselves to new areas to colonise. At this stage in their lifecycle they are almost microscopic and float in the upper surfaces of the sea as part of the plankton. Marine biologists believe that sea fans may have used a warm water current from the Mediterranean to ‘hitch’ a ride to Lundy. The larval sea fans change body shape (metamorphose) to look like small anemones when they have found a suitable area of rocky seabed. It takes a very long time (over 40 years) for an adult colony to grow into the impressive fan shape (up to 40 cm across).
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