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You are here:   OldClasses > 2012 > Stylophora pistillata | Alex Coughlan




Stylophora pistillata, Esper 1797

 Hood coral        
 (Alex Coughlan, 2012)




Fact Sheet



Physical Description


Life History & Behaviour

Anatomy & Physiology

Evolution & Systematics

Biogeographic Distribution

Conservation & Threats

References & Links

Life History & Behaviour


Feeding mechanisms

Due to the presence of photosynthetic dinoflagellates in coral tissue, corals can rely on photosynthesis (autotrophic nutrition) to meet their energy requirements. This is true for shallow water S. pistillata colonies.  In contrast the deep water colonies rely less on photosynthesis due to the reduced light availability with depth, and rely more on active predation on zooplankton (heterotrophic nutrition). This shift in feeding mechanism from autotrophic to heterotrophic can account for up to 60% of the corals energy requirements at depth (Falkowski et al., 1984). 

Image: A single coral polyp of S. pistillata with dinoflagellates visible in the tissues.

Life cycle

Planulae to Settlement

Once the planulae are released from the maternal coral, the larvae spend a short time in the plankton before settling. When expelled, the planulae emerge oral pole first and anywhere up to 400 planulae can be released per coral head. The planulae-larvae continue to alter its shape from a sphere to pear-shaped to a disc shape until finally a rod. As the planulae develops, six mesenteries form, however the development of these mesenteries can be quite variable. In experimental conditions, the settlement period was highly variable ranging from 48 hours to 35 days (Rinkevich and Loya, 1979a). Baird and Morse (2004) discovered that S. pistillata larvae respond to multiple reef cues; biological cues such as crustose red algae (CRA) and non-biological cues such as unconditioned tiles and pipes, promoting their opportunistic nature. After settlement, the coral continues to grow until it reaches sexual maturity (from 4-5cm in diameter (Rinkevich, 1975)).

Sexual reproduction, lunar periodicity and planulation

Stylophora pistillata is a monoecious brooding species that maximises reproductive success by producing fewer, larger and well-developed planulae (Halcampoides stage) (Veron 2000). Spanning over a period of 8 months, S. pistillata has a long period of reproduction (Rinkevich and Loya, 1979b). There is inconclusive evidence regarding the lunar periodicity of planulation in S. pistillata. Atoda (1947) found evidence for lunar periodicity of planulation while over a period of 3 reproductive seasons, Rinkevich and Loya (1979) did not find any evidence for it. Rather Rinkevich and Loya found that planulae were released in all phases of the moon (Rinkevich and Loya, 1979b). Interestingly, they also identified colony synchronisation between branches. The size of the colony affects the reproductive abilities, smaller colonies contain male gonads only, while as the colony develops it increases the hermaphroditic tendencies (Rinkevich and Loya, 1979b).




(2 objects, created 5/6/2011)

Album: This is a private album that is not visible to anonymous users Great Barrier Reef Invertebrates



Album: 2012

Album: 2011