Mushroom coral

Fungia scutaria

ORDER Scleractinia

FAMILY Fungiidae

TAXONOMY

Fungia scutaria Lamarck, 1801, no locality given. OTHER COMMON NAMES

English: Plate coral; German: Pilzkoralle, Rasiermesserkoralle; Hawaiian: ko'a-kohe

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Solitary and free-living (unattached) as an adult; oval to elongate skeleton from 1-7 in (2.5-18 cm) long resembles the underside of a toadstool mushroom; numerous small tentacles

Coral Biology

I Goniastrea aspera I Fungia scutaria arise from lobes formed by underlying skeleton. Usually brown with irregular pink or violet patches; tentacular lobes often bright green.

DISTRIBUTION

Red Sea, Indian Ocean south to Madagascar, west into Pacific Ocean to Society Islands, north to Hawaiian and Line Islands.

HABITAT

On upper reef slopes exposed to strong wave action or around coral knolls at depths from 1.5-16 ft (0.5-5 m).

BEHAVIOR

In the Red Sea, spawning is synchronized to occur in the late afternoon 1-4 days after a full moon. Free-living, unattached adults that are overturned by wave action can right themselves by taking in water through the mouth to expand one-half of the body. This process may take several hours.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

May feed on particulate organic material from water column. Derives nutrition from symbiotic zooxanthellae harbored within cells lining the digestive cavity.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Gonochoristic, broadcast spawners; males are smaller than females. Larvae acquire zooxanthellae in the water column. Larvae attach to the bottom and grow a short, calcareous stalk that eventually breaks, releasing the wide upper disk that becomes the free-living adult. The attached stalk may continue to grow and break off new polyps. Asexual reproduction by budding from adult tissue is also seen.

CONSERVATION STATUS

All scleractinian corals are listed in CITES Appendix II.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

Skeleton was used by early Hawaiians as an abrasive for polishing wooden canoes and for removing bristles from pig skins before cooking. ♦

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