The violescent sea-whip (Paramuricea clavata) is a sensitive, but important structuring octocoral species in the Mediterranean and adjacent Atlantic, threatened by fishing, recreational diving, pollution and climate change. Little is known about the habitat requirements of the sea-whip and the factors limiting its distribution.
A study aimed at increasing knowledge of P. clavata compiled all currently known occurrences from GBIF and other sources, and added new underwater survey records to model the ecological niche of the species. The full distribution was best explained by ocean temperatures and, in particular, slope. When restricting the suitable habitat to hard bottom areas, where larvae are more likely to settle, the researchers estimated a total area of 36,000 km2, consistent with known occurrences, but also identifying novel areas including Algeria, Alboran Sea and Atlantic coasts.
The study provides new insights into the potential distribution of an important octocoral species and suggests sites as targets for further investigation and, potentially, conservation.