Fautin, Daphne G. Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas.
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An order of the class Anthozoa (phylum Cnidaria), containing 2500–3000 species, commonly referred to as soft corals, sea fans, sea whips, and precious coral. Members of the Alcyonacea are strictly marine. They occur from northern to southern polar latitudes, and from the intertidal zone to nearly the deepest depths of the seas; however, few species exceed several thousand meters in depth. Best known are the alcyonaceans that occur in shallow, tropical waters. Many are important members of coral reef communities, particularly in the Caribbean. Most alcyonaceans adhere to a solid substratum, but some are anchored in sand or mud. See also: Anthozoa; Cnidaria
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