Stony star coralsSandra L. Romano and Stephen D. Cairns
IntroductionThe Scleractinia (scler = hard, actinia = ray), or stony star corals, are polyp animals that are found exclusively in marine habitats. They are very similar to sea anemones but they secrete a hard skeleton. Stony star corals are divided ecologically into two groups. One group, the reef-builders, are the best known scleractinian corals. They are found mostly in the clear, shallow waters of the tropics. The second group does not build reefs and is found in all regions of the oceans, including temperate and polar regions from relatively shallow waters down to 6000 m. An example of a non-reef-building-coral is Tubastraea coccinea.
The most recent taxonomic revision of the Scleractinia (Veron, 1995, 2000) divides the order into 13 suborders of which 7 have living representatives. Nine of these suborders were present in the Mid-Triassic (240 million years ago) when the Scleractinia first appear in the fossil record. Three more suborders originated in the Jurassic (200 million years ago) and one suborder originated in the Mid-Cretaceous (100 million years ago). These suborders are differentiated from one another primarily by characteristics of the septa -- the radial partitions of the skeleton that serve to separate and support the mesenteries of the polyp.
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Veron, J. E. N. 1995. Corals in Space and Time: The Biogeography and Evolution of the Scleractinia. University of New South Wales Press, Sydney, 321 pp.
Veron, J. E. N. 2000. Corals of the World. Australian Institute of Marine Science, Townsville. 3 vol.
Williams, G. C. 1986. What are Corals? Sagittarius, 1(2): 11-15.
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About This PageCreation of this page was supported by US National Science Foundation grants DEB95-21819 and DEB 99-78106 (in the program PEET - Partnerships to Enhance Expertise in Taxonomy) to Daphne G. Fautin, grant DEB99-78086 (in the program PEET) to Stephen D. Cairns, and grant OCE 00-03970 (in NOPP, the National Oceanographic Partnership Program) to D.G.F. and Robert W. Buddemeier.
Technical assistance was rendered by Adorian Ardelean.
Sandra L. Romano
University of the Virgin Islands, St. Thomas, USVI
Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D. C., USA
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- First online 28 October 2002
Citing this page:
Romano, Sandra L. and Stephen D. Cairns. 2002. Scleractinia. Stony star corals. Version 28 October 2002 (under construction). http://tolweb.org/Scleractinia/17653/2002.10.28 in The Tree of Life Web Project, http://tolweb.org/