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Family Pocilloporidae: (L. pocillun, cup, bowl; L. porous, pore).... presumably relating to the appearance of the callices, which look like tiny, little shallow cups. Corallites in most species are round to square in outline and well separated by the coenosteum.

Its current systematic position is dependent on strong morphological similarities with the Astrocoeniidae together with a good fossil record. The major extant genera appear to have been abundant and cosmopolitan throughout most of the Cenozoic, becoming progressively restricted in the Tethys during the Miocene and in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico in the Plio-Pleistocene. Despite these extinctions, the three major Indo-Pacific genera are all widespread and abundant. All are probably dispersed by both rafting and teleplanic planulae.
Corallites are immersed to conical, small, have well developed (rod-like) columellae and neatly arranged septa in one or two cycles. Usually, some septa are fused with the columellae. The coenosteum is covered with spinules. Corals of this family usually develop branching colonies, include the genera Pocillopora, Seriatopora, and Stylophora. They are among the most common corals on reef flats, lagoons, in the shallow intertidal habitats, and are often considered as weedy and opportunistic species. This family is an extremely polymorphic group of organisms with distinct growth morphologies that are dependent on wave exposure and / or light intensity. In high-energy environments, colonies tend to be small with thick, stubby branches; however, in deeper water or in lagoonal environments, branches are thinner and more open (for morphological features see table).


Pocilloporidae (80kB)

Pocilloporids tend to be among the first to colonize new substrates, providing environmental conditions are favorable. In frequently disturbed environments, Pocillopora and Stylophora are the two dominant genera. However, pocilloporids are found in almost all habitats, from the shallow high-energy intertidal reef crest to the deep lagoonal slopes. The genera Pocilllopora and Stylophora are the two most studied group of corals, often scientists nickname them as the "guinea pigs", since many new discoveries in coral biology were made by studying these groups (Veron 1986). The rapid colonization of new space may be related to their reproductive strategy. With the exception of P.verrucosa, which is known to be either a brooder or a spawner, Pocilloporidae are hermaphroditic brooders that release planulae throughout the year. However, Pocillopora damicornis has also been shown to produce asexual planulae, either through budding or parenthogenesis. Electrophoretic studies have shown that brooded larvae were genetically identical to their brood-parents. Many populations of P.damicornis tend to be colonial, which may explain their relative success as early colonizers. P.damicornis has also been reported to release gametes and may even take part in mass-spawning events (Java Sea) by releasing planulae larvae. Broadcast spawning was not yet reported.

Key to the family Pocilloporidae Colonies have verrucae: Genus Pocillopora
Colonies do not have verrucae Branches fine (<10mm diameter): Genus Seriatopora
Branches robust (>10mm diameter): Genus Stylophora
Genera are restricted to the Indo-Pacific region: -------------------------------------------------------------------------

Pocillopora (L. pocillum, cup or bowl; porus, pore):

Pocillopora (probably P.eydouxi) occurred in the Caribbean as recently as the Late Pleistocene. Its extinction there is anomalous, as the genus is more uniformly widespread in the Pacific than any other, with perhaps six species occurring in the far eastern Pacific, three of which show little taxonomically significant variation across the entire Indo-Pacific. Pocillopora can also be abundant in remote localities, including the depauperate reefs of Pacific Panama and Johnston Atoll and in high-latitude non-reef localities of both Australian coasts and the far south Pacific. Pocillopora damicornis is the most-studied of all corals, especially its genetics and reproductive biology. It is very widespread.
Most colonies are arborescent; ocasionally massive, or of encrusting growth. Color is green, dull brown, and bright pink. Each polyp has a ring of 12 small tentacles. Coenosteum is usually covered with granules (verrucae, which are wart-like nodules), which in some species fade gradually into branchelets. Calices are small, 0.5-1mm in diameter and crowded so densly that the corallite walls touch each other. Septa are present in 1-2 cycles, usually rudimentary.
P.damicornis, occurs as round clumps with club-like clusters of short branchelets. Others have more plate-like branches, studded by verrucae. Bases of some colonies are rusty brown in color - even in cleaned skeletons.
PRESENT DISTRIBUTION: Red Sea and western Indian Ocean to far eastern Pacific.
GENERAL ABUNDANCE: very common, very conspicuous.
FOSSIL RECORD: Eocene of the Caribbean, Oligocene of the Tethys, Miocene of the Pacific.
NUMBER OF EXTANT SPECIES: 17 known species.
Seriatopora (L. seriatus, arranged in series; porus, pore): Most records and occurrences of the genus are the one species: S.hystrix.
Colonies are always branched; branches are rounded, narrow and about 5mm in diameter (ocasionally form larger thickets), with most species having sharp, needle-like tips for which they also bear the common name "needle corals". Colonies are pink, cream, with shades of brown and green. Tips of branches are paler. Calices are 0.5-1.5mm in diameter, are rounded, and slightly hooded. Surface within calices is covered with minute tubercles. A styliform columella is present. Calices display 6 poorly developed septa. Corallites are neatly arranged in a linear pattern - more or less in rows. Members of this genus are found on reef flats and lagoons.
PRESENT DISTRIBUTION: Red Sea and western Indian Ocean to southern Pacific.
GENERAL ABUNDANCE: very common, conspicuous.
FOSSIL RECORD: Miocene of the Pacific.
NUMBER OF EXTANT SPECIES: 6 known species.
Stylophora (Gk. stylus, pillar; phero, to bear): Stylophora is probably the only major genus to have a higher species diversity in the western Indian Ocean and Red Sea than in the central Indo-Pacific.
Growth form is branched or massive. If branched, they are slightly laterally flattened, have rounded tips and are at least 1cm in diameter. Colonies are pale brown, with the tips paler, sometimes pink or bright purple with white ends. Coenosteum is quite rough to the touvh as coralites are hooded, which arch over the upper edge of the corallite. Corallites are about 0.5mm in diameter, and have 6 main septa that unite with a styliform columella. A 2nd cycle of 6 septa may also be present. Peritheca is covered with small tubercles. Species of this genus are found on the reef flat, slopes and lagoons.
PRESENT DISTRIBUTION: Red Sea and western Indian Ocean to southern Pacific.
GENERAL ABUNDANCE: very common, very conspicuous.
FOSSIL RECORD: Palaeocene of the Pacific, Eocene of the Caribbean and Tethys.
NUMBER OF EXTANT SPECIES: 8 known species.