Pipe cleaner sea pen

Virgularia presbytes

Family Virgulariidae - sea pens

Colony of polyps, long rigid narrow like a pen; tubular polyps form 2 rows of fleshy "leaves" that overlap on the ventral side and are fused together at the base of the leaves; leaves are attached to a shaft (rachis); on the dorsal side leaves do not touch; on dorsal side, shaft is bare with a groove down the center; pen narrows at the upper tip; at lower end leaves stop, shaft continues into a stalk (peduncle) for attaching to objects; stalk usually missing on collected specimens.
Similar Species
Most other sea pens have branches instead of leaves, are feather-like and/or are not rigid like this sea pen. Other narrow rigid sea pens with leaves have small fan-like spines supporting the leaves and is rough to the touch. This sea pen is smooth.
Gulf, soft bottoms
Maximum Size
Other Common Names
Previous Scientific Names
Is a major portion of the diet of loggerhead sea turtles off Texas.