From the Upper Jurassic to recent times The Great Star Coral, Montastrea cavernosa, forms sizable massive heads and sometimes plate-like structures. The polyps can be quite variable in color, from green and brown to bright red. It is a dominant species at moderate depths off Palm Beach County, Florida and the windward shore of Barbados. It can also occur in the Caribbean, the Bahamas, the banks off the Texas coast, Bermuda, Brazil and off western Africa. It’s one of the deepest occurring corals found at depths from only a few meters to at least 90 meters.
The fossil above is another in my possession from my late mother-in-law Winkie (Winifred) Mirto. She gathered a small collection off the Florida coast before protection laws forbid people to do so.
Threats to Montastraea cavernosa include coral bleaching, ocean acidification and coral disease, especially black band disease and white plague.
Montastraea are hermatypic, containing symbiotic algae called zooxanthellae that help nourish it, provides it oxygen and dispatch waste.
Kingdoms : Animalia
Phylum: Cnardia (Marine group with stinging cells
Class: Anthozoa (Flower Animal)
Order: Scleratinia: (Modern species of Stony Coral)
Family: Faviidae (Generally spherical shaped grooved surfaces)
Species: M. cavernosa
Montastaea annularis commonly known as the Boulder Star Coral co-occurs in near abundance with M. cavernosa only it dominates in the Caribbean regions. It also grows in varying depths down to 80 meters and grows in varying colony shapes (heads, column, plates) in response to differing light conditions.
Competition between the cousin genera has shown them to adapt longer sweeper tentacles in order to attack intruding corals.