This yellow sea fan is an octocoral colony in the family Paramuriceidae at 400 meters (1,312 feet) depth in Roatan, Honduras. The white forms in the branches are ophiuroid brittle stars (or "snake stars") in the genus Asteroschema. In 2010 and 2011, NOAA researchers explored the deep Meso-American Reef off Roatan, Honduras, as part of a multi-year expedition called 'Deep Coral and Associated Species Taxonomy and Ecology', or DeepCAST. The goal of DeepCAST is to estimate deep-sea coral abundance and diversity; and to discern the nature of the relationship between host corals and their associated species. The primary reasons we study deep-sea corals are because they provide habitat to other species of fish, sea stars, shrimp and crabs; and they grow very slowly, so they are vulnerable to bottom contact fishing gear. Image credit: NOAA DeepCAST I Expedition.