Comparing Two Star Coral Species

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’s 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.

Montastrea cavernosafossil

Montastrea cavernosa (The Great Star Coral) fossil


Monstastrea cavernosa (star coral) fossil side view

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.

1983 Ft. Lauderdale Florida Winky and Joe

1983 Ft. Lauderdale Florida
Winkie and Joe

Threats to Montastraea cavernosa include coral bleaching, ocean acidification and coral disease, especially black band disease and white plague.

Choose Your Sunscreen Carefully

Montastraea are hermatypic, containing symbiotic algae called zooxanthellae that help nourish it, provides it oxygen and dispatch waste.

Montastraea, cavernosa with open tentacles source:

Montastraea, cavernosa with open tentacles


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)

Genus:  Montastraea

Species:  cavernosa (above) annularis (below)

Montasrea annularis

Montastrea annularis (Boulder Star Coral) fossil

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, or plates) in response to differing light conditions.


Montastraea annularis

Competition between the cousin genera has shown them to adapt longer sweeper tentacles in order to attack intruding corals.


Montastrea cavernosa Source:

Montastrea cavernosa



4 thoughts on “Comparing Two Star Coral Species

  1. The boulder star coral fossil is beautiful. It looks like someone crocheted the piece. The Great Star Coral when it was alive really is fascinating. I saw many types of coral in St. Lucia, but would have been able to tell one from another. I saw both dead and live coral too.

  2. Hi Kathi! First grade teacher, enjoying the florida summer. I have been metal detecting with my young son for fun…needless to say he enjoys sand piles more than waiting on treasure dug. So, we have begun to pick rocks from a inactive sink hole. Picked them up and threw them in my bag thinking nothing big. Got home cleaned them off and started to see amazing things. I thought they were igneous rocks, but I may be wrong and they may be coral. I would love to send you pics and some of my ideas…from my online research. Every specimen looks different, and I thought I would go to the professional for help! 🙂 Thanks Jessica

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s