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Phylum Cnidaria > Class Anthozoa > Subclass Zoantharia/Hexacorallia > Order Scleractinia > Family Fungiidae
Sunflower mushroom coral
Heliofungia actiniformis

Family Fungiidae
updated May 13

Where seen? This free-living coral with fat, white-tipped tentacles is commonly seen on Pulau Hantu and Pulau Semakau and submerged reefs nearby. They are often seen in shallow silty, sandy areas among seagrasses, sometimes wedged among coral rubble. It used to be commonly seen on Beting Bronok in the north. It is the only species in the genus Heliofungia and is considered among the largest of polyps among hard corals.

Features: Circular skeleton 10-20cm in diameter with a flat smooth base. It is also sometimes called plate coral because its disk-shaped skeleton does resemble a dish. This coral is free-living (is not attached to the surface) as an adult and is a solitary polyp. The skeleton is light and the upper surface has long continuous lines radiating from the single slit-shaped mouth in the centre. These lines have large, rounded 'teeth'. The tissue covering the upper surface is usually striped.

The tentacles are long, thick and cylindrical (they look like thick 'udon' noodles), usually brown but also bluish and even bright green. Usually with white or cream tips that are sometimes inflated to a bulbous tip.

Sometimes mistaken for a sea anemone when its long tentacles obscure the hard skeleton. The hard skeleton immediately identifies it as a hard coral. Here's more on how to tell apart large 'hairy' cnidarians.

The Torch coral (Euphyllia glabrescens) has tentacles that look similar to the sunflower mushroom coral. But the torch coral's tentacles are smaller.

When the tentacles are retracted it resembles Fungia mushroom hard corals but can be distinguished from Fungia by the large, rounded teeth on the skeleton walls.

Status and threats: It is listed as globally Vulnerable by the IUCN which says that although "this species is widespread and locally common throughout its range, it is heavily to harvested for aquarium trade and has suffered extensive reduction of coral reef habitat due to a combination of threats."

Pulau Hantu, Aug 03


Pulau Semakau, Aug 08
Large, lobed teeth.

Pulau Semakau, Jan 09

Young ones attached to a hard surface.
Pulau Semakau, Aug 08

The underside is flat (not concave)
Beting Bronok, Jun 03


Pulau Hantu, Apr 06

Pulau Semakau, Mar 05

Pulau Semakau, Apr 08

Sunflower mushroom hard corals on Singapore shores

Photos for free download from wildsingapore flickr

more photos of sunflower mushroom hard corals on Singapore shores

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References

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