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Family Fungiidae: (L. fungus, mushroom).... describing the mushroom-like appearance of many young specimens.
In several important respects, the taxonomy, biogeography and palaeontology of the Fungiidae all stand apart from those of the other major families. Most species are solitary and, like the solitary azooxanthellates, lack the growth form variation that complicates the taxonomy of most colonial corals. Probably because of this, the family has been taxonomically revised more than any other. These 'revisions' have involved much name changing, but they have resulted in the most complete taxonomic compilation of all the major families.
Biogeographically the Fungiidae, alone of the major families, is restricted to the Indo-Pacific. Palaeontologically it has the shortest and least-known fossil record of any major family, despite the fact that the genera, including the principal genus, Fungia, form the largest and heaviest skeletons of all coral polyps and therefore have the greatest preservation potential. It was suggested that Fungiidae had a Tethyan Cretaceous origin, derived from the Synastreidae, but this is by analogy across a family-level gap. Whether this is so or not, there has been no confirmation of Cycloseris in Europe: all continued fossil Fungiidae are lndo-Pacific. A second aspect of the fossil record proposes that all colonial and polystomatous genera arose from Fungia during the Miocene and post-Miocene. This observation may simply reflect a weakness in the lndo-Pacific fossil record; it can readily be tested using molecular means. Most Miocene records used are from studies in the Indonesian region earlier this century that are not reliably dated.
Regaarding the morphology, some members in this genus are polystomatous (colonial), but most others are monostomatous (solitary - replacing "solitary" with monostomatous and "colonial" with polystomatous could avoid overlapping characterization in some species). Members are usually free-living, but some are attached even in their adult stages. However, all free-living fungiids must go through an attached stalked juvenile stage (i.e. anthocaulus). Septo-costae radiate from the mouth on the upper surface as septa and from the center of the under-surface as costae (for morphological diversity see table).

The mushroom corals are one of the most conspicuous groups of extant Indo-Pacific reef sleractinians. All Atlantic representatives are azooxanthellate species, thus not included in this list. Along with the staghorn acropoids, they are perhaps one of the best recognized by the public, owing to their popularity in the tropical curio trade. This family consists of 13 genera (10 of which are free-living i.e. Cycloseris, Diaseris, Heliofungia, Fungia, Ctenactis, Herpolitha, Polyphyllia, Sandalolitha, Halomitra, and Zoopilus). Species among the genera Cantharellus, Lithophyllon, and Podabacia differ slightly from the remaining members of this family as they are firmly attached to the substrate.
Polystomatal genera may be derived from solitary genera as each colonial genus has septo-costal structures corresponding to those of a solitary genus. Heliofungia actiniformis with a single central mouth is clearly a solitary free-living fungiid, while Halomitra pileus with its numerous distinct mouths all over its body (polystomatal) is a colonial free-living species. There is also a tendency in some, seemingly, solitary species to develop additional mouths (e.g. Fungia moluccensis). The polystomatous condition is a result of either intrastomatous, circumstomatous or peripheral budding, or by a combination of all.
According to Veron (1986), one of the oldest common names given to any coral belongs to Halomitra pileus (Gk. halos, -sea; mitra, -cap), which is a free-living poly-stomataous (colony with numerous mouths) fungiid with a relatively wide distribution around PNG. H. pileus has a pronounced dome- or bell-shaped corallum that can reach 63cm in diameter; however, the sizes of the colony most often encountered on the reef range between 20-30cm in diameter.


Some smaller members of the family Fungiidae (115kB)

Some larger members of the family Fungiidae (150kB)

Until relatively recently, very little was known about the life history and ecology of this fascinating group of mostly free-living corals. The family Fungiidae was recently revised into 11 genera and 40 species, and the genus Fungia was subdivided into 14 subgenera.
Among the most noticeable features of the fungiids is their immense polyp size. Indeed, the polyps of fungiids are among the largest known, with Heliofungia measuring over 50cm in diameter (Veron 1986). The large and long tentacles of Heliofungia, with their characteristic white bulbous tips, are always expanded during the day, and therefore, it is not surprising that the coral is very often mistaken for a sea anemone by many visitors to the reefs.
Not much is known about the nutritional requirements of Fungiidae; however, their large anemone-like tentacles seem to be efficient for prey capture (i.e. feeding on fish larvae). In addition to being autotrophs and carnivores, fungiids may also be scavengers. With their ability for lateral locomotion (Veron 1986) scavenging feeding behavior may allow fungiids to tap a large nutrient pool.
Wide reef flats as well as the shallow reef slopes of fringing reefs support large populations of fungiids (e.g. Fungia, Heliofungia, Ctenactis, and Cycloseris).
One unique feature of most fungiids, especially Cycloseris, is that they are able to extract themselves when buried by sediment, which is a feature that makes them one of the dominant groups in shallow-water lagoons, where sedimentation may be high. Cycloseris has been observed to right themselves after being overturned as well as to climb over various obstacles (Veron 1986).

Key to the family Fungiidae Not colonial Free living Central mouth dominant Disc small, costae inconspicuous Disc entire: Genus Cycloseris
Disc partitioned in segments: Genus Diaseris
Disc not small, costae conspicuous Septal teeth form no large lobes: Genus Fungia
Septal teeth form large lobes: Genus Heliofungia
Axial furrow dominant: Genus Ctenactis
Attached to substrate: Genus Cantharellus
Colonial Colony free living Axial furrow indistinct: Genus Herpolitha
Axial furrow indistinct or absent Septo-costae petaloid: Genus Polyphyllia
Septo-costae not petaloid Corallites robust & crowded: Genus Sandalolitha
Corallites not robust or crowded Colonies form delicate domes: Genus Zoopilus
Colonies not delicate domes: Genus Halomitra
Colony attached to substrate Colony mostly encrusting: Genus Lithophyllon
Colony mostly explanate: Genus Podabacia
All genera are restricted to the Indo-Pacific region ( Atlantic species are azooxanthellate): -----------------------

Cycloseris (Gk. kyklos, circle; seris, lettuce):

Usually found only in non-reef (usually inter-reef) biotopes, and thus distribution records are likely to be incomplete. The highly distinctive C.cyclolites is the only commonly encountered central lndo-Pacific species. As with Fungia, Cycloseris can form temporary populations in high latitudes of Japan and the Galapagos.
Tiny, monostomatous corallum (compared to other families). It is rounded or slightly oval disked that can reach 10cm in diameter and are of brownish or greenish in color. Smaller species are flat, larger ones are domed. Septa are smooth and clearly visible as they radiate from the center of the corallum to the outer edge. Septal margins are spiny. Costal margins are smooth, granular, or armed with extremely small blunt spines. The undersurface is solid and perforate. Usually found on sandy areas of the reef.
PRESENT DISTRIBUTION: Red Sea and western Indian Ocean to far eastern Pacific.
GENERAL ABUNDANCE: generally uncommon, non-reefal.
FOSSIL RECORD: Cretaceous (?) of the Indian Ocean.
NUMBER OF EXTANT SPECIES: 11 known species.
Diaseris (Gk. dias-, across, through; seris, lettuce): Like Cycloseris, this genus is usually found only in non-reef (usually inter-reef or sea-grass) biotopes and thus distribution records are likely to be incomplete. D.fragilis from the far eastern Pacific are identical to those from the western Pacific. The asexual reproductive capacity of D.fragilis by autotomy is much greater than that of any other coral that employs autotomy, and it can occur so frequently that individuals become very small (less than 10 mm diameter), forming a 'Diaseris gravel' that covers the substrate in a living layer.
The two members of this genus form small, discoid, to wedge-shaped monostomatous corallum that is flat or slightly domed, brown or yellowish, with tinges of green. An adult coral may reach more than 6cm in diameter and may develop polystomatous features (margins are easily separated, thus giving rise to vegetative offsprings that are able to survive individually). Septa are numerous and thick; larger ones are slightly exsert with small spines or granules along the septal margins. The costae on the underside are fine and the margins have delicate spines. Occurs on the sandy bottom areas.
PRESENT DISTRIBUTION: Red Sea and western Indian Ocean to far eastern Pacific.
GENERAL ABUNDANCE: generally uncommon, non-reefal.
NUMBER OF EXTANT SPECIES: 2 known species.
Cantharellus (Gk. cantharus, amphora): This genus has doubtful validity (as being distinct from Cycloseris), as the separation is dependent on the single character of polyps remaining attached to the substrate throughout life. An undescribed species of Japanese Fungia does likewise.
Members are flowerlike corals that are permanently attached to the substrate; individuals may be polystomatous. Colonies may be up to 20cm in diameter. Ornamented septa are thick and alternate in 5 cycles, while and costae display only fine granules.
PRESENT DISTRIBUTION: Red Sea to western Pacific.
GENERAL ABUNDANCE: rare, cryptic.
FOSSIL RECORD: Miocene (?) of the Indo-Pacific.
NUMBER OF EXTANT SPECIES: 3 known species.
Heliofungia (Gk. helios, sun; L. fungus, mushroom): This genus has a polyp morphology very unlike that of Fungia. This is correlated with an ecological preference for turbid environments, where the. species is, presumably, a detritus feeder. Latitudinal restrictions are, however, similar to Fungia and are probably temperature correlated.
The single member of this genus, H.actiniformis is a heavy and free-living rounded and monostomatous coral; often slightly domed and may reach 20cm in diameter. Tentacles are usually over 5cm long, extended during the day and are gray, blue, or green in color, with slightly inflated, often paler colored tips. Septa are hidden but numerous and imperforate. Undersurface is granular or finely serrated.
PRESENT DISTRIBUTION: eastern Indian Ocean to western Pacific.
GENERAL ABUNDANCE: generally common, very conspicuous.
FOSSIL RECORD: Miocene (?) of the Pacific.
NUMBER OF EXTANT SPECIES: 1 known species).
Fungia (L. fungus, mushroom): Species generally show little geographically or environmentally correlated variation, partly because they are not colonial, but also because they seldom occur on exposed reef fronts or in high-latitude, non-reeflocalities, both of which are common environmental extremes for other corals. Of all major genera, this is the most restricted to tropical waters and may occur in very large concentrations in equatorial regions. F.scutaria only occurs in higher latitudes of eastern Australia (Elizabeth and Middleton Reefs) and Japan (Tanegashima). This species also has the widest longitudinal distribution (to Hawaii and Pitcairn Islands). Long-term survival (probably temperature tolerance) rather than dispersal ability may be limiting distributions: a single specimen of F.repanda has been recorded from the Houtman Abrolhos Islands and temporary populations of Fungia have occurred in mainland Japan.
Members are characterized as a monostomatous corallum that is attached to dead corals or rocks (by a short stem); individual is round or elongate and may reach 50cm in diameter. Mouth is clearly visible at the center of the colony; pale brown, shades of pink, purple, blue, and green are frequently seen. Dentate septa are numerous and conspicuous. Skeletal are in cycles and often arch up between the center of the corallum and the perimeter. Costae have prominent spines on their margins or are represented by rows of dentated tubercles. Corallite wall is perforated, but septa are imperforated.
PRESENT DISTRIBUTION: Red Sea and western Indian Ocean to southern Pacific.
GENERAL ABUNDANCE: very common, very conspicuous.
FOSSIL RECORD: Miocene of the Pacific.
NUMBER OF EXTANT SPECIES: 18 known species.
Ctenactis (Gk. ktenos, comb): Species are ecologically and biogeographically similar to Fungia, which the genus as a whole closely resembles. These are free-living species with elongated polyps and a prominent central furrow which may have one to several mouths (mono- to polystomatal). Septa are neatly spaced and have large triangular evenly spaced teeth, while costal spines are blunt with wart-like ornamentations.
RESENT DISTRIBUTION: Red Sea to western Pacific.
GENERAL ABUNDANCE: generally common, very conspicuous.
FOSSIL RECORD: Miocene (?) of the Pacific.
NUMBER OF EXTANT SPECIES: 3 known species.
Herpolitha (Gk. herpo, to creep; lithos, stone): An elongate colonial coral that lives free on the bottom; species are irregular due to regeneration and may have more than two ends (Y-shaped). The upper side of the coral is convex, whereas the lower side is concave. Corals may reach 50cm in length. There is a central groove on the upper surface, along which is a series of conspicuous slit-like mouths (polystomatal - larger ones in longitudinal orientation, smaller ones perpendicularly oriented). The mouths are sometimes green and contrast with the rest of the brownish coral. Septa are discontinuous and alternate thick and thin with their edges having small regular teeth. Costal spines also have fine spinules on their margins. The lower surface of the coral is perforated.
PRESENT DISTRIBUTION: Red Sea and western Indian Ocean to Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico.
GENERAL ABUNDANCE: generally common, very conspicuous.
FOSSIL RECORD: Pliocene of the Pacific.
NUMBER OF EXTANT SPECIES: 2 known species.
Polyphyllia (Gk. polys, many; phyllon, leaf): P.novaehiberniae has an unusual distribution in that it occurs in the western Pacific but not in the central lndo-Pacific. This species also has the most extreme record of a disjunct distribution, having also been reported from Kenya.
The only known species is a free-living fungid with prominent tentacles and characteristic petaloid appearance of the calices (thamnasterioid structure). Mouths are aligned in a distinct orientation (polystomatal). Corallum may be flat or arched; polyps are confluent. Septa may radiate from one calice center to the next but often are interrupted by cross-walls. Costal pillars are also spinose. Septal margins are toothed.
PRESENT DISTRIBUTION: Western Indian Ocean to southern Pacific.
GENERAL ABUNDANCE: sometimes common, very conspicuous.
NUMBER OF EXTANT SPECIES: 1 known species.
Sandalolitha (Gk. sandalon, flat-fish; lithos, stone): Colonial free-living, rounded to elongated corallum which is flat to dome-shaped and may be 50cm in length. Coral is brownish and the perimeter is often bluish brown. There is a central corallite that may not be distinct, with secondary mouths (polystomatal) that are more conspicious than primary central mouth (scattered across the animal). Septa are closely packed and alternate thick and thin; most are short and run between adjacent calice centers, but some are longer. The underside of the corallum houses numerous spinose or granulose spines, which are arranged in rows or clusters.
PRESENT DISTRIBUTION: central Indian Ocean to southern Pacific.
GENERAL ABUNDANCE: sometimes common, very conspicuous.
FOSSIL RECORD: Pliocene of the Pacific.
NUMBER OF EXTANT SPECIES: 3 known species.
Halomitra (Gk. halos, sea; mitra, cap): Is a free-living and dome-shaped, rounded corallum; about 20cm (sometimes 60cm) in diameter, and brownish in color. The distribution of mouths (polystomatous) is loose and may show tints of gray, green, or blue. Septal margins are armed with strong smooth spines up to 3mm high. Costal spines are tall and have finely spinulose tips and are arranged in rows or clusters.
PRESENT DISTRIBUTION: western Indian Ocean to southern Pacific.
GENERAL ABUNDANCE: generally uncommon, very conspicuous.
FOSSIL RECORD: Miocene of the Tethys and Pacific.
NUMBER OF EXTANT SPECIES: 3 known species.
Zoopilus (Gk. zoos, animal; L. pileus, cap): This is the only genus of Fungiidae not to occur in Australia, although it is common in southern PNG immediately to the north of the GBR. Z.echinatus is a free-living coral that is rounded or slightly elongated and usually about 20-30cm in diameter. The corallum is strongly domed, light in weight, brownish in color, and lacks the bluish colored margin. Individuals have a central calice and a few irregularly placed and hard to spot lateral centers (polystomatal). The top and undersurface of the corallum are spiny and rough to the touch. Septal margins are armed with well-spaced spines and serrated edges. The costae have strongly branched spines.
PRESENT DISTRIBUTION: Central-west Pacific.
GENERAL ABUNDANCE: Uncommon, very conspicuous.
NUMBER OF EXTANT SPECIES: 1 known species.
Lithophyllon (Gk. lithos, stone; phyllon, leaf): Small encrusting, semi-encrusting or foliaceous, brownish colony which is attached to the substrate. Being polystomatous, there are numerous closely packed lateral calices next to the central calice. Calices lack distinct walls, and the septa run from one calice to the next arching up slightly as they do so. Septal margins are granular or spinulose. Costal margins are granular or have small rounded or pointed teeth. The corallum is solid and not perforated.
PRESENT DISTRIBUTION: Eastern Indian Ocean to Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico.
GENERAL ABUNDANCE: generally uncommon, conspicuous.
FOSSIL RECORD: Oligocene (?) of the Pacific.
NUMBER OF EXTANT SPECIES: 3 known species.
Podobacia (Gk. podos, foot; L. baca, round): Is attached by a base and grows upward in a strong plate-like or foliaceous fashion - sometimes even bowl-shaped; occasionally encrusting forms are encountered and are brown in color. Numerous radially arranged calices are only present on the upper surface (polystomatous and unifacial). Calices measure 3-5mm in diameter and ma be inclined towards the outer plate margin of the colony. Alternating septa converge on the calice centers and are closely packed. Coastal ridges are present or reduced to rows of spines.
PRESENT DISTRIBUTION: Red Sea and western Indian Ocean to southern Pacific.
GENERAL ABUNDANCE: sometimes common, conspicuous.
FOSSIL RECORD: Pliocene of the Pacific.
NUMBER OF EXTANT SPECIES: 4 known species.