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Marine Animal Encyclopedia

Dendrophyllid Coral Dendrophyllia species

With their large, flamboyant polyps, corals of the genus Dendrophyllia look more like an anemone than a coral. Dendrophyllids belong to a group called cup corals. They grow as a low-branching colony with each tubular individual distinct, and they do not develop the massive skeleton of reef-building corals. Dendrophyllid corals have no zooxanthellae and grow in shaded parts of reefs such as below overhangs and especially on steep cliff faces. During the day, the polyps are entirely withdrawn and the coral looks like a dull reddish lump. As darkness falls, the dendrophyllid polyps expand their orange tentacles to feed on plankton and make a spectacular display that often covers large areas. This genus of coral is very difficult to identify to species level and can also be confused with cup corals belonging to the genus Tubastrea.

Dendrophyllid Coralzoom image
  • Class Anthozoa
  • Height Up to 2 in (5 cm)
  • Depth 10–165 ft (3–50 m)
  • Habitat Steep rock faces
  • Distribution Tropical waters in Indian Ocean and from western Pacific to Polynesia
Dendrophyllid Coral habitat mapzoom image