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Marine Animal Encyclopedia

Table Coral Acropora hyacinthus

The magnificent flat plates of table coral are ideally shaped to expose as much of their surface as possible to sunlight. Like most hard corals, the cells of table coral contain zooxanthellae that need light to photosynthesize and manufacture food for themselves and their host. Table coral is supported on a short, stout stem that is attached to the seabed by a spreading base. The horizontal plates have numerous branches that mostly project upward from the surface, so each plate, or table, resembles a bed of nails. Each of these branches is lined by cup-shaped extensions of the skeleton called corallites, from which the polyps extend their tentacles in order to feed, mainly at night.

The usual color of table coral is a dull brown or green, but it is brightened up by the numerous reef fish that shelter under and around its plates. However, the shade the plates cast means that few other corals can live underneath a table coral. There are many other similar species that are also called table coral, but Acropora hyacinthus is one of the most abundant and widespread.

Charlie Veron and Table Coral

Born in Sydney, Australia, in 1945, Charlie Veron has been dubbed the “King of Coral” for his lifelong work on coral reefs. He has formally named and described over 100 new coral species, including many from the genus Acropora. His three-volume book Corals of the World is a classic text.

Table Coralzoom image
  • Class Anthozoa
  • Diameter Up to 10 ft ( 3 m)
  • Depth 0–33 ft (0–10 m)
  • Habitat Coral reefs
  • Distribution Tropical waters of Red Sea, Indian Ocean, and western and central Pacific
Table Coral habitat mapzoom image