PORT PHILLIP BAY


Hydroid 

Gymnangium prolifer (Bale, 1882)

View scientific description and taxonomy

Scientific Details

Family level detail.
Erect branched or unbranched plumose stems. Stems and hydrocladia divided into segments (internodes). Hydrocladia alternate on stem internodes. Hydrotheca saccate, attached at base to hydrocladial internode, margin usually cuspate. Three nematothecae attached to each hydrotheca - one tubular median with a terminal orifice, fused to upper (anterior) side of hydrotheca and smaller twin laterals, one at each side of base of hydrotheca. Nematothecae similar to laterals on internodes of main stem. Gonophores fixed sporosacs containing eggs and sperm, protected by a gonotheca; accessory protective structure (corbula) in some families.

The most spectacular and graceful hydroids in southern Australia belong to the Aglaopheniidae. Preliminary field identification of many aglaophenian species can be made from observing colony size, structure and colour, however, precise identification usually requires microscopic examination. In the genus Aglaophenia the corbula is important in identification, including its size, the number and shape of leaflets (pinnae), whether the pinnae are free from one another (open corbula) or connected together by tissue (closed corbula), and the shape of the nematothecae on the pinnae. When fertile, species of the Aglaopheniidae can be identified from the presence, absence or development of the corbula.

Provisional identification is possible by plucking several hydrocladia from a specimen stem and laying them in a drop of water on a glass microscope slide, compressing them gently under a coverslip and examining them microscopically. The important structures of the hydrocladium, hydrotheca and nematotheca can usually be seen under low power magnification. Often however, the dense and strongly coloured internal tissue (coenosarc) obscures diagnostic structures. The coenosarc can be dissolved in domestic bleach (calcium hypocholorite solution) diluted in tap water. The specimen is soaked for a few minutes until the darker tissue begins to dissolve, then carefully transfer the specimen to fresh water for a few minutes to remove the bleach, leaving cleared perisarc behind. Specimens can then be mounted in a drop of water or glycerol under a coverslip on a microscope slide and examined under magnification. Examination is best done using a compound light microscope.

Genus level detail.
Plumose hydroids with the same basic morphology as the family Aglaopheniidae, gonothecae borne in a row along main stem; no accessory protective structures.

Species identification.
Hydrorhiza tough root-like stolons. Colonies consisting of many monosiphonic plumes, plumes usually single and unbranched but sometimes sparsely branched in one plane imparting a flattened appearance to colony. Hydrocladia alternate on stems, Hydrothecae close-set on hydrocladium, cup-shaped, facing obliquely upward, margin with three pairs of shallow cusps and one sharp anterior cusp pointing over hydrothecal margin. Median nematotheca moderately long, overtopping hydrotheca; twin laterals large, saccate with a downwardly facing tubular orifice. Gonothecae button-shaped, borne in a crowded row along stem. Colour: colonies variable in colour from greyish-brown to honey-brown. Up to 15 cm long.

Taxonomy

Phylum:
Cnidaria
Class:
Hydrozoa
Subclass:
Leptothecatae
Order:
Conica
Family:
Aglaopheniidae
Genus:
Gymnangium
Species:
prolifer

General Description

Colony of individual polyps (hydranths) joined by root-like network of tubular stolons at the base. Colony shape is feather-like (pinnate). Colour: colonies variable in colour from greyish-brown to honey-brown. Up to 15 cm long.

Biology

This is one of the most spectacular and graceful hydroids in southern Australia. Their colonies grow throughout year, and become fertile spring to summer.

Habitat

Oceanic reef in flowing current.

Reefs

Distribution guide

New Zealand and southern Australia.

Species Group

Hydroids

Depth

Shallow (1-30 m)
Deep ( > 30 m)

Water Column

On or near sea floor

Max Size

15 cm

Diet

Plankton or Particles

Harmful

Generally not harmful but still able to sting bare skin.

Commercial Species

No

Global Dispersal

Recorded in Australia

Identify

Conservation Status

  • DSE Advisory List : Not listed
  • EPBC Act 1999 : Not listed
  • IUCN Red List : Not listed

Author

article author Watson, J.

Jan Watson is a consultant with expertise in hydroid taxonomy.

citation

Cite this page as:
Watson, J., 2011, Hydroid, Gymnangium prolifer, in Taxonomic Toolkit for marine life of Port Phillip Bay, Museum Victoria, accessed 28 Jun 2017, http://portphillipmarinelife.net.au:8098/species/7103

Text: creative commons cc by licence