Cauliflower coral

Pocillopora damicornis

ORDER

Scleractinia

FAMILY

Pocilloporidae

TAXONOMY

Millepora damicornis Linnaeus, 1758, "Oceanus Asiatico." OTHER COMMON NAMES

English: Bird's nest coral, lace coral; German: Buschkoralle. PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Colonial; the colony is a compact clump, up to several meters across, formed of branches; the surface is dotted with verrucae (wartlike bumps) that intergrade with the branches. Growth form varies with environmental conditions and geographic location. Tissue color is pale brown, greenish, or pink.

DISTRIBUTION

Throughout the Indo-Pacific, western and eastern Australia, north to Japan and Hawaii, and east to Central America, Mexico and Ecuador.

Palythoa caesia Pocillopora damicornis

HABITAT

Common in all shallow-water habitats, from wharf piles and mangrove swamps to exposed reef fronts; rarely grows deeper than 30 ft (9 m).

BEHAVIOR

Polyp tentacles are usually extended only at night. FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Feeds on minute zooplankton and derives nutrition from zooxanthellae harbored within cells lining the digestive cavity.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Polyps are hermaphroditic. Unlike most corals, eggs are fertilized internally and brooded (although in the eastern Pacific, P. damicornis is a broadcast spawner). Asexual production of larvae also has been reported. Larvae released from polyps can delay settlement for 100 days or longer, and therefore have the potential to travel great distances. Larvae acquire zooxanthellae from parent.

CONSERVATION STATUS

All scleractinian corals are listed in CITES Appendix II. SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

Pocilloporids are among the most successful colonizers of coral reefs following disturbance, and are an important framebuilding species. ♦

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