Brain coral is a common name given to various corals in the families Mussidae and Merulinidae, so called due to their generally spheroid shape and grooved surface which resembles a brain. Each head of coral is formed by a colony of genetically identical polyps which secrete a hard skeleton of calcium carbonate; this makes them important coral reef builders like other stony corals in the order Scleractinia. Brain corals are found in shallow warm-water coral reefs in all the world's oceans. They are part of the phylum Cnidaria, in a class called Anthozoa or "flower animals". The lifespan of the largest brain corals is 900 years. Colonies can grow as large as 1.8 m (6 ft) or more in height.
In biology, a common name of a taxon or organism is a name that is based on the normal language of everyday life; this kind of name is often contrasted with the scientific name for the same organism, which is Latinized. A common name is sometimes frequently used, but that is by no means always the case.
Corals are marine invertebrates within the class Anthozoa of the phylum Cnidaria. They typically live in compact colonies of many identical individual polyps. Corals species include the important reef builders that inhabit tropical oceans and secrete calcium carbonate to form a hard skeleton.
Family is one of the eight major hierarcical taxonomic ranks in Linnaean taxonomy; it is classified between order and genus. A family may be divided into subfamilies, which are intermediate ranks between the ranks of family and genus. The official family names are Latin in origin; however, popular names are often used: for example, walnut trees and hickory trees belong to the family Juglandaceae, but that family is commonly referred to as being the "walnut family".
Brain corals extend their tentacles to catch food at night. During the day, they use their tentacles for protection by wrapping them over the grooves on their surface. The surface is hard and offers good protection against fish or hurricanes. Branching corals, such as staghorn corals, grow more rapidly, but are more vulnerable to storm damage. Like other genera of corals, brain corals feed on small drifting animals, and also receive nutrients provided by the algae which live within their tissues. The behavior of one of the most common genera, Favia , is semiaggressive; it will sting other corals with its extended sweeper tentacles during the night.
The staghorn coral is a branching, stony coral with cylindrical branches ranging from a few centimetres to over two metres in length and height. It occurs in back reef and fore reef environments from 0 to 30 m depth. The upper limit is defined by wave forces, and the lower limit is controlled by suspended sediments and light availability. Fore reef zones at intermediate depths 5–25 m (16–82 ft) were formerly dominated by extensive single-species stands of staghorn coral until the mid-1980s. This coral exhibits the fastest growth of all known western Atlantic fringe corals, with branches increasing in length by 10–20 cm (3.9–7.9 in) per year. This has been one of the three most important Caribbean corals in terms of its contribution to reef growth and fishery habitat.
Favia is a genus of reef-building stony corals in the family Mussidae. Members of the genus are massive or thickly encrusting colonial corals, either dome-shaped or flat, and a few are foliaceous. There is a great diversity of form even among individuals of the same species. The corallites project slightly above the surface of the coral and each has its own wall. In most species, the corallites are plocoid and in some, monocentric. The septa and costae linked to the corallite wall are well developed and covered by fine teeth. The polyps only extend and feed during the night. Each one has a small number of tapering tentacles which often have a darker coloured tip; these are called stinger tentacles, or sweeper tentacles. They use these to sweep the water to see if any other coral is in its area; if so, then they begin to sting the other coral. This is commonly known as coral war. Each coral is trying to make sure it has enough room around it so they can continue to grow and have more surface area for their offspring. The columella is parietal and spongy, and there are vesicles on both the endotheca and exotheca. Members of this genus are widespread in both the Atlantic Ocean and the Indo-Pacific.
Caulastraea is a genus of stony corals in the family Merulinidae. Species of Caulastraea are commonly found in the aquarium trade under the names candy cane coral or trumpet coral.
Colpophyllia is a genus of stony corals in the family Mussidae. It is monotypic with a single species, Colpophyllia natans, commonly known as boulder brain coral or large-grooved brain coral. It inhabits the slopes and tops of reefs, to a maximum depth of fifty metres. It is characterised by large, domed colonies, which may be up to two metres across, and by the meandering network of ridges and valleys on its surface. The ridges are usually brown with a single groove, and the valleys may be tan, green, or white and are uniform in width, typically 2 centimetres. The polyps only extend their tentacles at night.
Cyphastrea is a genus of massive reef building stony corals in the family Merulinidae, commonly known as brain coral.
Spawn is the eggs and sperm released or deposited into water by aquatic animals. As a verb, to spawn refers to the process of releasing the eggs and sperm, and the act of both sexes is called spawning. Most aquatic animals, except for aquatic mammals and reptiles, reproduce through the process of spawning.
The Caribbean Sea is a sea of the Atlantic Ocean in the tropics of the Western Hemisphere. It is bounded by Mexico and Central America to the west and south west, to the north by the Greater Antilles starting with Cuba, to the east by the Lesser Antilles, and to the south by the north coast of South America.
Vieques, in full Isla de Vieques, is an island–municipality of Puerto Rico, United States in the northeastern Caribbean, part of an island grouping sometimes known as the Spanish Virgin Islands. Vieques is part of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and retains strong influences from 400 years of Spanish presence in the island.
Acropora is a genus of small polyp stony coral in the phylum Cnidaria. Some of its species are known as table coral, elkhorn coral, and staghorn coral. Over 149 species are described. Acropora species are some of the major reef corals responsible for building the immense calcium carbonate substructure that supports the thin living skin of a reef.
Mussidae is a family of stony coral in the order Scleractinia. Following a taxonomic revision in 2012, the family is now restricted to species found in the Atlantic Ocean, with Pacific species transferred to the new family Lobophylliidae. Many species are referred to as brain coral because their generally spheroid form and grooved surface resembles the convolutions of a brain. Members of this family are found in the reef aquarium trade.
Duncanopsammia is a monotypic genus of stony corals. It is represented by the single species, Duncanopsammia axifuga, commonly called whisker coral, duncanops coral, or simply duncan coral. Individual polyps are fairly large with round skeletal bases (corallites) 10–14 millimetres (0.39–0.55 in) in diameter and larger central discs from which multiple tentacles radiate; the polyps form a structure branching at irregular intervals to form a large colony.
The Caryophylliidae are a family of stony corals found from the tropics to temperate seas, and from shallow to very deep water.
Acanthastrea is a genus of large polyp stony corals in the family Lobophylliidae. The colonies are massive and usually flat. The corallites are either circular or angular in shape. The septae are thick near the wall of the corallite, becoming thin near the columella, and have tall teeth. The polyps are extended only at night.
Rhodactis is genus of "mushroom corals", which are characterized by large individual polyps that are often reminiscent of a mushroom. Rhodactis are related to stony corals but do not produce a stony skeleton.
Goniopora, often called flowerpot coral, is a genus of colonial stony coral found in lagoons and turbid water conditions. Goniopora have numerous daisy-like polyps that extend outward from the base, each tipped with 24 stinging tentacles which surrounds a mouth.
Lobophyllia, commonly called lobed brain coral or lobo coral, is a genus of large polyp stony corals. Members of this genus are sometimes found in reef aquariums.
Astrocoeniidae is a family of stony corals. The family is distributed across the tropical and subtropical oceans worldwide.
Isastrea is an extinct genus of corals that lived during the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. Its fossils have been found in Europe, Africa, North America, Asia and South America.
Diploria is a monotypic genus of massive reef building stony corals in the family Mussidae. It is represented by a single species, Diploria labyrinthiformis, commonly known as grooved brain coral and is found in the western Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea. It has a familiar, maze-like appearance.
Pseudodiploria strigosa, the symmetrical brain coral, is a colonial species of stony coral in the family Mussidae. It occurs on reefs in shallow water in the West Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea. It grows slowly and lives to a great age.
Pseudodiploria clivosa, the knobby brain coral, is a colonial species of stony coral in the family Mussidae. It occurs in shallow water in the West Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea.
Dichocoenia is a monotypic genus of stony coral in the family Meandrinidae. It is represented by a single species, Dichocoenia stokesii, which is commonly known as pineapple coral, elliptical star coral, or pancake star coral. It is found in the Caribbean Sea and the western Atlantic Ocean. Dichocoenia stokesii has irregular calyces and its form can be either a massive, hemispherical hump or a flat, platform-like structure.
Diploastrea heliopora, commonly known as diploastrea brain coral or honeycomb coral among other vernacular names, is a species of hard coral in the family Diploastreidae. It is the only extant species in its genus. This species can form massive dome-shaped colonies of great size.
Merulinidae is a family of reef-building stony corals.
Flabellidae is a family of marine corals. It consists of the following genera: