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information on the biology of species and the ecology of habitats found around the coasts and seas of the British Isles

The tall sea pen (Funiculina quadrangularis)

Distribution data supplied by the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS). To interrogate UK data visit the NBN Atlas.

Summary

Description

A tall, narrow sea pen, which can exceed 2 metres in height. It has a calcareous white axis, square in section. The polyps are irregularly arranged along the axis or tend to form oblique rows. They are white or pale pink in colour.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

West and north coasts of Ireland and Scotland.

Global distribution

Funiculina quadrangularis occurs in the North Atlantic and Mediterranean. It has been recorded in New Zealand (Manuel, 1988) and Japan (Fujita & Ohta, 1988).

Habitat

Found in muddy substrata on sheltered coasts, especially in sea lochs. Sublittoral to deep offshore water.

Depth range

20-2000m

Identifying features

  • Axis white, diagnostically box like in section.
  • Lower quarter of stem forms a smooth peduncle, upper one third is curved.
  • Autozooids irregularly arranged on rachis or in short oblique rows, retractile within toothed calyces.
  • Autozooids often pink.

Additional information

-none-

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Further information sources

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Biology review

Taxonomy

PhylumCnidaria
ClassAnthozoa
OrderPennatulacea
FamilyFuniculinidae
GenusFuniculina
Authority(Pallas, 1766)
Recent Synonyms

Biology

Typical abundanceModerate density
Male size range1.5-2.1m
Male size at maturity
Female size rangeLarge(>50cm)
Female size at maturity
Growth formPinnate
Growth rate
Body flexibilityLow (10-45 degrees)
Mobility
Characteristic feeding methodPassive suspension feeder
Diet/food source
Typically feeds onPlankton and organic particles
Sociability
Environmental positionEpibenthic
DependencyNo information found.
SupportsSubstratum

the brittlestar Asteronyx loveni and the isopod crustacean Astacilla longicornis .

Is the species harmful?No information

Biology information

Flexibility
Eno et al. (1996) found that the tall sea pen bends away from lobster creels dropped on of them in a passive response to the pressure wave travelling ahead of the pot. However, the axial rod of this sea pen is brittle, making the species vulnerable to physical disturbance (Greathead et al., 2007).

Associated species
The deep-water brittlestar, Asteronyx loveni, which has been recorded sporadically from the west coast of Scotland (Hughes, 1998b), is known to use its arms to cling to Funiculina quadrangularis (Fujita & Ohta, 1988).

Habitat preferences

Physiographic preferencesOpen coast, Sea loch / Sea lough
Biological zone preferencesLower circalittoral, Upper circalittoral
Substratum / habitat preferencesMud, Muddy sand
Tidal strength preferencesVery Weak (negligible), Weak < 1 knot (<0.5 m/sec.)
Wave exposure preferencesExtremely sheltered, Sheltered, Ultra sheltered, Very sheltered
Salinity preferencesFull (30-40 psu)
Depth range20-2000m
Other preferencesNo text entered
Migration PatternNon-migratory / resident

Habitat Information

Although previously recorded only within sea lochs, a recent study by Greathead et al. (2007) found the species distribution to include the outer mouths of sea lochs, and areas of open water such as North and South Minch, and the Cuillin Sound where water depth exceeds 100 m.
This sea pen has been recorded in high abundance in Loch Sunart, Loch Teacuis, Loch Duich and Loch a'Chairn Bhain from the mainland and in Loch Seaforth on Lewis.

Life history

Adult characteristics

Reproductive typeGonochoristic (dioecious)
Reproductive frequency No information
Fecundity (number of eggs)No information
Generation timeSee additional information
Age at maturitysee additional information
SeasonInsufficient information
Life spanSee additional information

Larval characteristics

Larval/propagule type-
Larval/juvenile development See additional information
Duration of larval stageNo information
Larval dispersal potential No information
Larval settlement periodInsufficient information

Life history information

  • Sexes in sea pens are separate; each colony of polyps are either male or female.
  • Hughes (1998a) suggests, using the information from other species of seapen, that Funiculina quadrangularis may follow a similar pattern of patchy recruitment, slow growth and a long lifespan. Isolated populations are likely to be self-seeding, and hence susceptible to local extinction if their environments are disrupted (Hughes, 1998).
  • Birkeland (1974) found the lifespan of Ptilosarcus gurneyi to be 15 years, reaching sexual maturity between the ages of 5 and 6 this may be similar in Funiculina quadrangularis.
    It was estimated by Wilson et al. (2002), that larger specimens of a tall sea pen (Halipteris willemoesi) in the Bering Sea were 44 years old, with a growth rate of 3.6 - 6.1 cm per year.
  • The developmental mechanism for Funiculina quadrangularis is unknown, however large size of larvae in many sea pens is indicative of lecithotrophic larva. Sea pen fecundity is high, and varies between 30,000-200,000 ocytes per colony (Edwards & Moore, 2008)
    Another British sea pen, Pennatula phosphorea, spawns in summer (July-August), with each polyp releasing approximately 50 ocytes, having a fecundity of 40,000 ocytes per colony for medium to large specimens (Edwards & Moore, 2008).

Sensitivity reviewHow is sensitivity assessed?

Physical pressures

 IntoleranceRecoverabilitySensitivityEvidence/Confidence
High Low High Moderate
As Funiculina quadrangularis lives in the substratum, substratum loss will lead to loss of the population. Therefore, intolerance has been recorded as high.
A recoverability of low has been recorded, thus sensitivity is assessed as high (see additional information below).
Low Immediate Not sensitive Moderate
Smothering would be expected to be caused by high levels of siltation. Funiculina quadrangularis is very tall and would protrude above the sediment, therefore an intolerance of low as been recorded. Recoverability would be expected to be immediate, therefore the species is assessed as not sensitive.
Low Immediate Not sensitive Moderate
The effect of an increased deposit of fine silt is unclear but it is possible that feeding structures may become clogged (Jones et al., 2000). Kinnear et al. (1996) found that mud particles adhering to Funiculina quadrangularis were quickly removed due to large amounts of mucus produced. Also, an increase in suspended sediment may provide an increase in food availiabity for Funiculina quadrangularis. Therefore an intolerance of low has been recorded. Recovery on return to normal conditions is likely to be immediate, therefore the species is assessed as not sensitive.
Low Immediate No information
The effects of a decrease in suspended sediment levels are unclear. It is possible that this factor may reduce the amount of particulate matter available as food for Funiculina quadrangularis, which may affect viability but is unlikely to be fatal at the level of the benchmark. Therefore an intolerance of low has been recorded. Recovery on return to normal conditions is likely to be immediate, therefore the species is assessed as not sensitive.
Not relevant Not relevant Not relevant Not relevant
Funiculina quadrangularis is a sub-tidal species and is therefore likely to be highly intolerant of desiccation. However, the species is found in the circalittoral zone (below 20 m) where desiccation is unlikely to occur, so not relevant has been recorded.
Not relevant Not relevant Not relevant Not relevant
Funiculina quadrangularis is a sub-tidal species and is therefore likely to be highly intolerant of emergence. However, the species is found in the circalittoral zone (below 20 m) where any emergence is highly unlikely to occur, so not relevant has been recorded.
Not relevant Not relevant Not relevant Not relevant
Funiculina quadrangularis is a sub-tidal species and is therefore likely to be highly intolerant of emergence. However, the species is found in the circalittoral zone (below 20 m) where any emergence is highly unlikely to occur, so not relevant has been recorded.
High Low High Moderate
Areas where Funiculina quadrangularis is found tend to be physically sheltered with low or very low water flow rates. No information was found about effects of increased water flow rate on Funiculina quadrangularis. However, experiments on another sea pen (Virgularia mirabilis) showed that, as water flow increased, the polyps faced away from the current to face downstream. Increasing current led to the stalk bending over and the pinnae becoming pushed together, which may result in feeding inhibition. Eventually the sea pen withdrew into the sediment (Hiscock, 1983). Furthermore, Funiculina quadrangularis is large with a short peduncle and increased flow may drag the sea pen out of the sediment. If feeding was inhibited, or if the sea pen was displaced for an excessive amount of time, survival and distribution of Funiculina quadrangularis may be affected (Hiscock, 1983). Therefore intolerance has been recorded as high.
A recoverability of low has been recorded, resulting in a high sensitivity recording (see additional information below).
Intermediate Moderate Moderate Moderate
Areas where Funiculina quadrangularis is found tend to be physically sheltered with low or very low water flow rates, however, as this sea pen is a suspension feeder a decrease in water flow rate may effect feeding. Therefore an intolerance of intermediate has been recorded.
A recoverability of moderate has been recorded, hence sensitivity is moderate (see additional information below).
Intermediate Moderate Moderate Low
No information was found of the upper or lower thermal limits of Funiculina quadrangularis. Funiculina quadrangularis occurs in thermally stable conditions, with annual temperature variation between 5 - 15°C (Jones et al., 2001). This species is subtidal where wide variations in temperature are not common, so may be intolerant of short term changes in temperature. Therefore intolerance has been recorded as intermediate.
A recoverability of moderate has been recorded, and sensitivity is moderate (see additional information below). Also in the event of climate change, if larval dispersal is poor, colonization of suitable habitats at different latitudes is unlikely.
Intermediate Moderate Moderate Low
No information was found of the upper or lower thermal limits of Funiculina quadrangularis. Funiculina quadrangularis occurs in thermally stable conditions, with annual temperature variation between 5 - 15 (Jones et al., 2001). This species is subtidal where wide variations in temperature are not common, so may be intolerant of short term changes in temperature. Therefore intolerance has been recorded as intermediate.
A recoverability of moderate has been recorded, and sensitivity is moderate (see additional information below).
No information No information Not sensitive No information
No information could be found about the sensitivity of Funiculina quadrangularis to light. Another sea pen Virgularia mirabilis, was not found to be sensitive to light (Hoare & Wilson, 1977).
No information No information Moderate No information
No information could be found about the intolerance of Funiculina quadrangularis to light. Another sea pen Virgularia mirabilis was found to be insensitive to light (Hoare & Wilson, 1977).
High Low High Moderate
Funiculina quadrangularis is found in areas with little or no wave exposure. Virgularia mirabilis was found to be smaller and less common where wave exposure increased (Hoare & Wilson, 1977). It is likely that an increase in exposure ranking of 2 or more would kill Funiculina quadrangularis. Therefore, an intolerance of high has been recorded.
A recoverability of low has been recorded, resulting in a high sensitivity assessment (see additional information below).
Not relevant Not relevant Not relevant Not relevant
Funiculina quadrangularis is found in areas with little or no wave exposure so it is unlikely that a decrease in wave exposure would occur. Therefore, not relevant has been recorded.
Tolerant Not relevant Not sensitive Very low
Funiculina quadrangularis probably has a very limited if any ability for detection of noise vibrations, therefore tolerant has been recorded, and the species is assessed as not sensitive.
Tolerant Not relevant Not sensitive Very low
Funiculina quadrangularis probably has a very limited if any ability for visual perception, and is not known to be sensitive to light (Greathead et al., 2007). It is unlikely the sea pen will be sensitive to visual presence. Therefore tolerant has been recorded, and the species is assessed as not sensitive.
High Moderate Moderate Moderate
Sea pens project above the surface of the seabed and so are likely to be vulnerable to physical disturbance (Eno et al., 2001). Eno et al. (1996) dropped creels onto sea pens. They were seen to bend away in response to the pressure wave travelling ahead of the dropping creel, therefore reducing the chance the top of the sea pen would be struck causing fracture of the colony. Kinnear et al. (1996) conducted creel dragging experiments. The majority of Funiculina quadrangularis that were displaced from the sediment recovered after 72 hours. However, fishing gear such as a scallop dredge (see benchmark) or, more likely for this species, a Nephrops trawl, is likely to have a more severe impact. Sea pens are likely to be particularly vulnerable to damage from trawls, and have been reported as numerous in bycatch from otter trawls in the Bering sea (Brodeur 2001; Wilson et al., 2002). It is possible that the apparent absence of Funiculina quadrangularis from many open coast Nephrops grounds may be a consequence of its susceptibility to trawl damage (Connor, pers. comm. in Hughes, 1998a). For example when the sea pen Halipteris willemoesi becomes entangled in prawn trapping gear, 50% of sea pen colonies are damaged (Troffe et al., 2005).
A damaged sea pen appeared to remain fully functional but if, as seems likely, the axis is broken, the sea pen will be unable to remain erect and will most likely die. Therefore, intolerance has been recorded as high. A recoverability of moderate has been recorded, resulting in a moderate sensitivity value (see additional information below).
Low Immediate Not sensitive Moderate
Funiculina quadrangularis can not retract into the sediment so it is likely to be removed from the seabed by the action of fishing gear. Removal experiments by Kinnear et al. (1996) showed when a sea pen was displaced it could reburrow as long as its foot remains in contact with the mud. Therefore, intolerance has been recorded as low. Recovery would take less that 72 hrs, so recoverability is recorded as immediate, yielding a sensitivity value of not sensitive.

Chemical pressures

 IntoleranceRecoverabilitySensitivityEvidence/Confidence
No information No information No information Not relevant
Insufficient
information.
Heavy metal contamination
No information No information No information Not relevant
Insufficient
information.
Hydrocarbon contamination
No information No information No information Not relevant
Insufficient
information.
Radionuclide contamination
Low High Low Low
No information was found for Funiculina quadrangularis in relation to intolerance to radionuclides. However another species, Virgularia mirabilis, occurred in high density (10/m) at a sampling station immediately offshore from the Sellafield outfall pipeline in the Irish Sea (Hughes & Atkinson, 1997). Bottom sediments in this area contains particles of long half life radionuclides from liquid effluent, so intolerance has been recorded as low. Recovery is likely to be high, therefore the species is assessed as low sensitivity.
Changes in nutrient levels
Intermediate High Low Moderate
A low level of nutrient enrichment is likely to be beneficial to Funiculina quadrangularis. However, because the distribution of the species is limited to relatively small areas within semi-enclosed water bodies, organic encrichment is expected to have adverse effects (Hughes, 1998). Jones et al. (2000) found Funiculina quadrangularis absent from de-oxygenated areas which are characterised by nutrient enrichment resulting in a hypoxic bacterial community. Salmon farming has been identified as the greatest source of organic pollution in Scottish sea lochs (Hiscock et al., 2005). Therefore intolerance has been recorded as intermediate. Recovery is recorded as high, hence a low sensitivity value.
Not relevant Not relevant Not relevant Not relevant
Funiculina quadrangularis is found in fully saline conditions and it is unlikely that it would be exposed to hypersaline conditions, therefore, not relevant has been recorded.
High Low Not relevant
Funiculina quadrangularis is found only in fully saline conditions so it is likely that the sea pen would be intolerant of a decrease in salinity. Therefore an intolerance of high has been recorded.
A recoverability of low has been recorded, hence sensitivity is high (see additional information below).
Intermediate Moderate Moderate Low
Funiculina quadrangularis is found in sea lochs where stratification of the water column is likely to occur during warm temperatures so it may be able to tolerate some reduction in oxygenation. However, Jones et al. (2000) found the sea pen absent from de-oxygenated areas which are characterised by nutrient enrichment resulting in a hypoxic bacterial community. Therefore intolerance has been recorded as intermediate.
A recoverability of moderate has been recorded, hence sensitivity is moderate (see additional information below).

Biological pressures

 IntoleranceRecoverabilitySensitivityEvidence/Confidence
No information No information No information Not relevant
No information was found on diseases of Funiculina quadrangularis.
No information No information No information Not relevant
Insufficient
information
Not relevant Not relevant Not relevant Not relevant
Funiculina quadrangularis is unlikely to be subject to extraction, therefore, this factor has been assessed as not relevant. This sea pen can not retract into the sea bed which may mean it can be extracted through dredging activity.
High Low High Low
Trawling for the Norway lobster (Nephrops norvegicus) in the open sea and more accessible sea lochs may have removed populations of Funiculina quadrangularis. Large quantities of Funiculina quadrangularis axis have been observed below Dunstaffnage pier, presumably discarded bycatch (Hiscock, pers comm.). Other species of sea pen have also been recorded as numerous bycatch in trawls from the Bering sea (Brodeur 2001; Wilson et al., 2002). It is likely that physical disturbance from demersal fishing activities poses the greatest threat to Funiculina quadrangularis, (Greathead et al., 2007), and due to the fragmented distribution and possibly limited larval dispersal, recovery if unlikely (Hughes, 1998a).
In the isolated sea lochs where Funiculina quadrangularis is found, creeling for lobsters traditionally occurs. Studies indicate that this has a less damaging effect than trawling as the sea pen has the ability to right itself if hit by a creel pot (Eno et al., 1996). Nevertheless, due to its potential vulnerability to trawling, an intolerance of high has been recorded. A recoverability of low has been recorded, so sensitivity is high (see additional information below).

Additional information

There have been no long term studies of British sea pen populations so assessment of intolerance and recoverability is based on the available information for other species of sea pen. However, Funiculina quadrangularis is the most sensitive of the British Sea pens (Hughes, 1998; Greathead et al., 2007).

Recoverability
There is very little information on life cycles and population dynamics of British sea pens. From the limited information on other species Hughes (1998) suggested a pattern of patchy recruitment, slow growth and a long life span. Recoverability would depend on recolonization from other populations. Larval settlement is likely to be limited and patchy in space and time, with possibly no recruitment for several consecutive years.

Importance review

Policy/legislation

UK Biodiversity Action Plan Priority
Species of principal importance (England)
Features of Conservation Importance (England & Wales)

Status

Non-native

Importance information

-none-

Bibliography

  1. Birkeland, C., 1974. Interactions between a seapen and seven of its predators. Ecological Monographs, 44, 211-232.

  2. Brodeur, R.D., 2001. Habitat-specific distribution of Pacific Ocean perch (Sebastes alutus) in Pribilof Canyon, Bering Sea. Continental Shelf Research, 21, 207-224.

  3. Davies, J., 1990. Sublittoral survey of Loch Sunart and Loch Teacus Joint Nature Conservation Committee Report, no. 1075.

  4. Edwards, C.B. & Moore, C.G., 2008. Reproduction in the sea pen Pennatula phosphorea (Anthozoa: Pennatulacea) from the west coast of Scotland Marine Biology 155:303–314

  5. Eno, N.C., Clark, R.A. & Sanderson, W.G. (ed.) 1997. Non-native marine species in British waters: a review and directory. Peterborough: Joint Nature Conservation Committee.

  6. Eno, N.C., MacDonald, D. & Amos, S.C., 1996. A study on the effects of fish (Crustacea/Molluscs) traps on benthic habitats and species. Final report to the European Commission. Study Contract, no. 94/076.

  7. Eno, N.C., MacDonald, D.S., Kinnear, J.A.M., Amos, C.S., Chapman, C.J., Clark, R.A., Bunker, F.S.P.D. & Munro, C., 2001. Effects of crustacean traps on benthic fauna ICES Journal of Marine Science, 58, 11-20.

  8. Fujita, T. & Ohta, S., 1988. Photographic observations of the lifestyle of deep-sea ophiuroid Asteronynx loveni (Echinodermata). Deep Sea Research, 35, 2029-2043.

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  12. Hiscock, K., 1983. Water movement. In Sublittoral ecology. The ecology of shallow sublittoral benthos (ed. R. Earll & D.G. Erwin), pp. 58-96. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

  13. Hiscock, K., Sewell, J. & Oakley, J., 2005. Marine Health Check 2005. A report to guage the health of the UK’s sea-life. Godalming, WWF-UK.

  14. Hoare, R. & Wilson, E.H., 1977. Observations on the behaviour and distribution of Virgularia mirabilis O.F. Müller (Coelenterata: Pennatulacea) in Holyhead harbour. In Proceedings of the Eleventh European Symposium on Marine Biology, University College, Galway, 5-11 October 1976. Biology of Benthic Organisms, (ed. B.F. Keegan, P.O. Ceidigh & P.J.S. Boaden, pp. 329-337. Oxford: Pergamon Press. Oxford: Pergamon Press.

  15. Howson, C.M. & Picton, B.E., 1997. The species directory of the marine fauna and flora of the British Isles and surrounding seas. Belfast: Ulster Museum. [Ulster Museum publication, no. 276.]

  16. Howson, C.M., Connor, D.W. & Holt, R.H.F., 1994. The Scottish sealochs - an account of surveys undertaken for the Marine Nature Conservation Review. Joint Nature Conservation Committee Report, No. 164 (Marine Nature Conservation Review Report MNCR/SR/27)., Joint Nature Conservation Committee Report, No. 164 (Marine Nature Conservation Review Report MNCR/SR/27).

  17. Hughes, D.J. & Atkinson, R.J.A., 1997. A towed video survey of megafaunal bioturbation in the north-eastern Irish Sea. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, 77, 635-653.

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  21. Kinnear, J.A.M., Barkel, P.J., Mojseiwicz, W.R., Chapman, C.J., Holbrow, A.J., Barnes, C. & Greathead, C.F.F., 1996. Effects of Nephrops creels on the environment. Fisheries Research Services Report No. 2/96.

  22. Manuel, R.L., 1988. British Anthozoa. London: Academic Press.[Synopses of the British Fauna, no. 18.]

  23. Troffe, P.M., Levings, C.D., Piercey, G.B.E. & Keong, V., 2005. Fishing gear effects and ecology of the sea whip Halipteris willemoesi (Cnidaria: Octocorallia: Pennatulacea)) in British Columbia, Canada: preliminary observations Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, 15, 523-533

  24. Wilson, M.T., Andrews, A.H., Brown, A.L. & Cordes, E.E., 2002. Axial rod growth and age estimation of the sea pen, Halipteris willemoesi Kölliker Hydrobiologia, 471, 133-142.

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Citation

This review can be cited as:

Ager, O.E.D. 2003. Funiculina quadrangularis The tall sea pen. In Tyler-Walters H. and Hiscock K. (eds) Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Reviews, [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. Available from: http://www.marlin.ac.uk/species/detail/1154

Last Updated: 17/02/2003