Parent document
Tropical Marine Biology II

Classification of Scleractinian (Stony) Corals

Headed by: Dr. K. Kleemann

Handed in by: Pierre Madl

University of Vienna, March through June 2001 (revised in Nov. 2002 & Oct. 2009)

Scleractinia - Major Subdivisions.... of corals found around the tropics, with a particular focus to those found in PNG waters.

Scleractinian, stony, or hard corals as they are often referred to are responsible for the very existence of the reef. As living animals, they provide habitats for many other organisms. The breakdown of their skeletons during calcium-carbonate accretion and especially after death provides material for redistribution and consolidation into the reef framework (see also Marine Bioerosion - German only). Some of these arguments are also dealt with in the Silent Sentinels - The Demise of Tropical Coral Reefs (a 7-part series shedding some light onto the complex interactions between global environmental change and coral health).
For a more detailed description of a coral animal's lifecycle, its morphological features and physiology, please refer to Coral Reefs of Milne Bay Province .

The order Scleractinia is currently divided into 18 artificial Families, namely the Acroporidae, Astrocoeniidae, Pocilloporidae, Euphyllidae, Oculinidae, Meandrinidae, Siderastreidae, Agariciidae, Fungiidae, Rhizangiidae, Pectiniidae, Merulinidae, Dendrophylliidae, Caryophylliidae, Mussidae, Faviidae, Trachyphylliidae, and Poritidae (sensu Veron 2000). However, only 11 families contain corals that can be classified as truly reef-building. All scleractinian families considered here are zooxanthellates (contain photo-endo-symbiontic zooxanthellae). In some families, those among Caryophylliidae and Dendrophylliidae, the vast majority of them are azooxanthellates: i.e. in terms of generic diversity, Caryophylliidae far surpass Faviidae (Veron 1995). The family Faviidae has the highest generic diversity of zooxanthellate reef-builders, while the family Acroporidae is the dominant group of reef-builders. The families that are not considered here are: Micrabaciidae, Anthemiphylliidae, Flabelliidae, and Guyniidae.

Family Acroporidae: (Gk. akron, extremity, summit; L. porous, pore)....relating to the presence of a corallite at the tip of each branch. Indo-Pacific genera:-----------------------------
Anacropora (Gk. an-, without; akron, extremity; L. porus, pore),
Astreopora (Gk. aster, star; L. porus, pore)
Circum-tropical genera:-------------------------
Montipora (L. mons, mountain; porus, pore),
Acropora (Gk. akron, extremity; L. porus, pore)

(Click for description)
Family Astrocoeniidae: (Gk. aster, star; koinos, shared).... most likely relating to the shared walls of each calice. Indo-Pacific genera:-----------------------------
Stylocoeniella (Gk. stylos, pillar; koinos, shared; L. -ellus, diminuitive suffix) ,
Palauastrea (Island of Palau, location first found; Gk. aster, star)
Circum-tropic genus:-----------------------------
Madracis (madre, mother; Gk. akis, point)
Atlantic genus:-------------------------------------
Stephanocoenia (Gk. stephos, crown; koinos, shared)

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Family Pocilloporidae: (L. pocillum, cup, bowl; L. porous, pore).... presumably relating to the appearance of the callices, which look like tiny, little shallow cups. Indo-Pacific genera only:-----------------------
Pocillopora (L. pocillum, cup or bowl; porus, pore),
Seriatopora (L. seriatus, arranged in series; porus, pore),
Stylophora (Gk. stylus, pillar; Gk. phero, to bear)

(Click for description)
Family Euphyllidae: (Gk. eu-, true; Gk. phyllon, leaf).... possibly relating to the prominent leafy septa. Indo-Pacific genera only:----------------------
Euphyllia (Gk. ei-, true; phyllon, leaf),
Catalaphyllia (named after R. Catala; Gk. phyllon, leaf),
Nemenzophyllia (?; Gk phyllon, leaf),
Plerogyra (Gk. pleres, full; gyrus, circle),
Physogyra (Gk. physa, air bubble; gyrus, circle)

(Click for description)
Family Oculinidae: (L. oculus, eye; L. -ina, like).... presumably relating to the eye-like appearance of the calices. Altlantic genera:-----------------------------------
Oculina (L. oculus, eye; -ina, suffix denoting likeness)
Schizoculina (Gk. schizos, split; L. oculus, eye)
Indo-Pacific genera:
Simplastrea (L. simpel, simple; Gk. aster, star),
Schizoculina (Gk. schizos, split; L. oculus, eye),
Galaxea (Gk. galaxaios, milky)

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Family Meandrinidae: (Gk. maiandros, windig; L. ina, like).... a reference to the winding valleys. Indo-Pacific genera:-----------------------------
Ctenella (Gk. ktenos, comb; L. -ella, relating to the septa),
Gyrosmilia (Gk. gyros, round; smilion, knife),
Montigyra (L. mons, mountain; Gk. gyros, round)
Altlantic genera:-----------------------------------
Meandrina (Gk. meandros, winding; L. -ina, denoting likeness),
Dichocoenia (Gk. dicha, divided into two; koinos, to share),
Dendrogyra (Gk. dendron, tree; gyros, round),
Eusmilia (Gk. euo, true; smilion, knife)

(Click for description)
Family Siderastreidae: (L. sideris, star; Gk. aster, star)....relating to the regular star-like arrangement of the calices and septa. Circumtropical genus:---------------------
Siderastrea (Gk. sideriss, star; aster, star),
Indo-Pacific genera:------------------------------------
Pseudosiderastrea (Gk. pseudo, false; sideris, star; aster, star),
Psammocora (Gk. psammos, sand; kore, pupil of the eye),
Coscinaraea (Gk. koskinos, sieve; araios, thin, porous)
Indian Ocean genera:---------------------------
Horastrea (Malagasy word hora, coral; Gk. aster, star)
Anomastraea (Gk. anomos, irregular, unequal; aster, star)

(Click for description)
Family Agariciidae: (Gk. agarikon, mushroom).... possibly relating to the the growth form, which can be flattened like a mushroom. Indo-Pacific genera:-----------------------------
Pavona (L. pavo, peacock),
Coeloseris (Gk. koilos, hollow; seris, lettuce),
Gardineroseris (named after S.Gardiner; Gk. seris, lettuce),
Pachyseris (Gk. pachys, thick; seris, lettuce)
Circumtropical genus:---------------------
Leptoseris (Gk. leptos, slender; Gk. seris, lettuce)
Atlantic genera:-----------------------------
Agaricia (Gk. agarikon, muschroom)
Helioseris (Gk. helios, sun; I>seris, lettuce)

(Click for description)
Family Fungiidae: (L. fungus, mushroom).... describing the mushroom-like appearance of many young specimens. Indo-Pacific genera:-----------------------------
Cycloseris (Gk. kyklos, circle; seris, lettuce),
Diaseris (Gk. dias-, across, through; seris, lettuce),
Cantharellus (Gk. cantharus, amphora),
Heliofungia (Gk. helios, sun; L. fungus, mushroom),
Fungia (L. fungus, mushroom),
Ctenactis (Gk. ktenos, comb),
Herpolitha (Gk. herpo, to creep; litha, stone),
Polyphyllia (Gk. polys, many; phyllon, leaf),
Sandalolitha (Gk. sandalon, flat-fish; lithos,stone),
Halomitra (Gk. halos, sea; mitra, cap),
Zoopilus (Gk. zoos, animal; L. pileus, cap),
Lithophyllon (Gk. lithos, stone; phyllon, leaf),
Podabacia (Gk. podos, foot; L. baca, berry-like)

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Family Rhizangiidae: (Gk. rhizon, root).... probably relating to the polyps that are linked to neighboring polyps by rootles. Atlantic genus:-------------------------------
Astrangia (?. ?, ?)

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Family Pectiniidae: (Gk. pectinis, comb).... probably relating to the comb-like appearance of the walls, which are often tall, thin and striated. Indo-Pacific genera:-----------------------------
Echinophyllia (Gk. echinos, hedgehog, spiny; phyllon, leaf),
Echinomorpha (Gk. echinos, hedgehog, spiny; morphus, figure, shape),
Oxypora (Gk. ox, sharp; porous, pore),
Mycedium (Gk. mykes, knobbed; -idion, diminuitive suffix),
Pectinia (Gk. pectinis, comb)

(Click for description)
Family Merulinidae: (L. merus, pure; L. linea, line).... outlining the entirely line-like appearance of the valleys. Indo-Pacific genera:-----------------------------
Hydnophora (Gk. hydnon, tuber; phero, to bear),
Paraclavarina (Gk. para, beside; L. clavarius, clublike),
Merulina (L. merus, pure; linea, line),
Boninastrea (Japanes island of Bonin; Gk. aster, star),
Scaphophyllia (L. scapus, stalk, shaft; Gk.phyllon, leaf)

(Click for description)
Family Dendrophylliidae: (Gk. dendron, tree; Gk. phyllon, leaf).... presumably relating to the branched, tree-like growth form of some species. Indo-Pacific genera:-----------------------------
Turbinaria (L. turbinatus, cone-shaped; -aria, suffix denoting resemblance),
Duncanopsammia (?. ?, ?; Gk. psammon, sand),
Rhizopsammia (Gk, rhiza, root; psammon, sand),
Balanophyllia (Gk. balanos, acorn; phyllon, leaf),
Heteropsammia (Gk. heteros, unlike, different; psammon, sand),
Circum-tropical genera:---------------------------
Tubastraea (L. tubus, tube; Gk. aster, star),
Dendrophyllia (Gk. dendron, tree; Gk. phyllon>, leaf)

(Click for description)
Family Caryophylliidae: (Gk. karyon, nucleus; Gk. phyllon, leaf).... presumably relating to the knob-like appearance of the polyp and the leafy septa. Indo-Pacific genera:-----------------------------
Heterocyathus (Gk. heteros, different; khyatos, bowl),
Phyllangia (Gk. phyllon, leaf; angeion, vessel)

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Family Mussidae: (L. mus, mouse) Indo-Pacific genera:-----------------------------
Blastomussa (Gk. blastos, bud; mussa, a coral genus),
Micromussa (Gk. micros, small; mussa, a coral genus),
Acanthastrea (Gk. akantha, thorn, prickle; aster, star),
Lobophyllia (Gk. lobos, lobe; phyllon, leaf),
Symphyllia (Gk. syn-, together; phyllon, leaf),
Indophyllia (first recorded in Indonesia; Gk. phyllon, leaf),
Australomussa (L. australis, Australia; Gk. mussa, a coral genus),
Cynarina (Gk. kinara, an artichoke; L. -ina, suffix denoting likeness)
Circum-tropical genus:--------------------------
Scolymia (Gk. skolymos, an artichoke)
Atlantic genera:-----------------------------------
Mussa (L. mus, mouse),
Mussismilia (L. mus, mouse; similus, equal), sometimes termed Protomussa,
Isophyllia (G. isos, equal; phyllon, leaf),
Mycetophyllia (Gk. mycetos, knobbed; phyllon, leaf)

(Click for description)
Family Faviidae: (L. favus, honeycomb).... relating to the regular appearance of the corallites. Genera exhibiting predominantly entratentacular budding:
Indo-Pacific genera:-----------------------------
Plesiastrea (Gk. plesios, recent; Gk. aster, star),
Oulastrea (Gk. oulos, curly; Gk. aster, star),
Diploastrea (Gk. diploos, double; aster, star),
Leptastrea (Gk. leptos, slender; aster, star),
Cyphastrea (Gk. kyphos, humped; aster, star),
Moseleya (named after H.N. Moseley)
Arabic region genus:----------------------------
Parasimplastrea (Gk.para, besides; L.simpel, simple)
Circum-tropical genus.--------------------------
Montastrea (L. montis, mountain; Gk. aster, star)
Atlantic genus:------------------------------------
Solenastrea (Gk. solen, channel; aster, star)

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Genera exhibiting predominantly intratentacular budding:
Indo-Pacific genera:-----------------------------
Caulastrea (L. kaulis, stalk; Gk. aster, star),
Barabattoia (?. ?, ?; ?. ?, ?),
Favites (Gk. favus, honeycomb; -ites, like),
Goniastrea (Gk. gonia, corner; aster, star),
Platygyra (Gk. platys, wide; gyros, round),
Australogyra (L. australis, Australia; Gk. gyros, round),
Oulophyllia (Gk. oulos, curly, twisted; phyllon, leaf),
Leptoria (Gk. leptos, slender; seris, lettuce),
Echinopora (Gk. echinos, hedgehog, prickly; L. porus, pore),
Circum-tropical genus.--------------------------
Favia (L. favus, honeycomb)
Arabic region genus:-----------------------------------
Erythrastrea (Gk. erythros, ?; aster, star)
Atlantic genera:-----------------------------------
Cladocora (Gk. klados, branch; keras, horn) - (also Mediterranean),
Manicina (Gk. manos, wide, loose; kineo, to move),
Diploria (Gk. diplon, fold; oros, mountain),
Colpophyllia (Gk. colpodes, sinuous; phyllon, leaf)

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Family Trachyphylliidae: (Gk. trachys, rough; Gk. phyllon, leaf).... possibly relating to the intended form of the corallum that resembles a large and uneven leaf. Indo-Pacific genus:------------------------------
Trachyphyllia (Gk. trachys, rough; phyllon, leaf)

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Family Poritidae: (L. porous, pore; Gk. -ites, like).... relating to the porous nature of the corallum. Indo-Pacific genera:-----------------------------
Stylaraea (Gk. stylos, pillar),
Poritipora (L. porus, pore; Gk. -ites, suffix denoting likeness; L. porus, pore),
Goniopora (Gk. gonia, an angle; L. porus, pore),
Alveopora (L. alveolus, small, hollow; porus, pore),
Curcum-tropical genus:--------------------------
Porites (L. porus, pore; Gk. -ites, suffix denoting likeness)

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Non-Scleractinian families: Indo-Pacific genera:-----------------------------
Helioporidae (Gk. helios, sun; L. porus, pore),
Tubiporidae (L. tubus, tube; porus, pore),
Circum-tropical genera:-------------------------
Milleporidae (L. mille, thousand; porus, pore),
Stylasteridae (Gk. stylos, style; aster, star)

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Click here to access the Key to Scleractinian Families (based on Veron 2000 - Corals of the World).

Click here to access images and further information EOL Database on coral taxonomy.
Alternatively you can also access WoRMS Database for source literature.

References: Cairns S.D., Hoeksema B.W., VanDerLand J.: 1999. List of Extant Stony Corals.
     Attol Research Bulletin, 459:13-46
Gosliner, T.M., Behrens, D.W., Williams, G.C.; 1996; Coral Reef Animals of the Indo-Pacific;
     Monterey, CA - USA;
Mather P, Bennett I., 1994; a Coral Reef Handbook; Australian Coral Reef Society;
     Surrey Beatty & Sons Pty Ltd; Chipping Norton; NSW - AUS
Colin P.L., Arneson C.,1995: Tropical Pacific Invertebrates;The Coral Reef Press: Beverly Hills, CA - USA
Veron J.E.N. 2000; Corals of the World; Australian Institute of Marine Science; Townsville, QLD - AUS.
Veron J.E.N; 1996; Corals of Australia and the Indo-Pacific; University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu - USA.
Veron J.E.N; 1995; Corals in Space and Time - The Biogeography and Evolution of the Scleractinia;      University of New South Wales Press, Sydney - AUS.
Wood E.M. 1983; Corals of the World; TFH Publications Inc Ltd.: Neptune City, NJ - USA