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

Family Fungiidae
updated Jan 2020
Where seen? This free-living coral with Udon-like tentacles is only commonly seen on some of our undisturbed Southern shores. 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 hard coral polyps.

Features: Circular skeleton 10-20cm in diameter with a flat smooth base (not concave). 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 and its tentacles are smaller.

When the tentacles are retracted, it resembles Fungia mushroom corals but Sunflower mushroom coral can be distinguished 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 Semakau, Aug 08
Large, lobed teeth.

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


Pulau Semakau, Jan 09

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

Pulau Hantu, Aug 03


Pulau Hantu, Apr 06

Pulau Semakau, Mar 05

Pulau Semakau, Apr 08

Sunflower mushroom corals on Singapore shores
On wildsingapore flickr

Other sightings on Singapore shores


Pulau Semakau (North), Apr 17
Photo shared by Toh Chay Hoon on facebook.

Pulau Semakau (South), Jan 20
Photo shared by Liz Lim on facebook.

Pulau Semakau (North), Jul 20
Photo shared by Loh Kok Sheng on facebook.


Beting Bemban Besar, May 11
Photo shared by James Koh on his blog.

Terumbu Raya, Mar 09
Photo shared by Loh Kok Sheng on his flickr.


Terumbu Berkas, Jan 10

Pulau Berkas, Feb 22
Photo shared by Jianlin Liu on facebook.

Links

References

  • Hoeksema, Bert W. and Esther G. L. Koh. 30 Dec 2009. Depauration of the mushroom coral fauna (Fungiidae) of Singapore (1860s-2006) in changing reef conditions (pdf). Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Supplement No. 22: 91-101.
  • Danwei Huang, Karenne P. P. Tun, L. M Chou and Peter A. Todd. 30 Dec 2009. An inventory of zooxanthellate sclerectinian corals in Singapore including 33 new records (pdf). Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Supplement No. 22: 69-80.
  • Veron, Jen. 2000. Corals of the World Australian Institute of Marine Science, Australia. 3 volumes.
  • Erhardt, Harry and Daniel Knop. 2005. Corals: Indo-Pacific Field Guide IKAN-Unterwasserachiv, Frankfurt. 305 pp.
  • Borneman, Eric H. 2001. Aquarium Corals: Selection, Husbandry and Natural History T.F. H Publications. 464 pp
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