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Know the morphology of tabulate, rugose and scleractinian corals;

understand that fossil corals may indicate a tropical, marine, reef
Candidates should be able to:
1. describe coral morphology; septa, tabulae, dissepiments, columella,
calice and corallite within the corallum; describe solitary and
compound forms;
2. compare the morphological similarities and differences between
tabulate, rugose and scleractinian corals;
3. describe and explain the conditions that modern corals need for
good growth; explain how modern corals have a symbiotic
relationship with photosynthetic algae and that the conditions for
growth were probably similar in the past;
4. describe the modern distribution of coral reefs and explain how coral
reefs are formed.

Paleozoic corals, both rugosans and tabulates, originated in Ordovician

time and became extinct at the end of Permian time. Both rugose and
tabulate corals are found most commonly in shallow water, tropical to
subtropical carbonate facies. They were capable of forming substantial
reefs in association with stromatoporoids.
Tabulate coral
Tabulate corals are colonial corals exhibiting radial symmetry. The entire
tabular coral is called the corallum, while the individual tubular chambers
within the corallum are called corallites. While solitary forms of rugose
corals were made up of a single corallum with large, cup-shaped calices
(cups), most tabulate corals had a large corallum comprised of a colony of
corallites (sometimes thousands) with very small calices in which the
actual coral animals (polyps) lived. Although the individual coral polyps
were generally smaller than their rugose cousins, their colonies often grew
to much larger sizes. These types of coral mounds were the reef formers
of the Silurian and Devonian seas.


Abundant in Middle Ordovician to Late Permian seas

Have less well developed septa or apparently no septa. Instead they
possess a complex skeleton consisting of tabulae and curved
elements known as dissepiments
Bilateral symmetry

Rugose corals insert septa only at four locations during adult growth
(hence, the nickname tetracorals). They may be solitary and resemble a
horn, or they may grow in tightly packed colonies.


Stony Corals are also known as Hard Corals. They are considered the
reef builders of the ecosystem because of the calcium carbonate
skeleton they secrete, which distinguishes them from soft corals.
Because of their hard calcium carbonate skeleton, stony corals have
a rich fossil record. They first appeared in the mid-triassic period,
after replacing their softer bodied relatives, skeletonized rugose and
tabulate corals, which went extinct in the Permian Extinction. The
Late Jurassic Period showed the most biodiversity of corals with
more than 200 genera. While hard coral began to be edged out by
rudist bivalves the Early Cretaceous, this effect was minimized by
the Late Cretaceous due to the extinction of the rudist bivalves,
during which coral existed worldwide. From the ecocene to today,
hard coral remains dominant in reefs, but mainly in tropical areas.

Conditions needed for modern day coral growth

Tempteratutre 23 27C
Normal salinity (32-42 ppt)
Depth 30m to allow light to reach them
Clear water as they need sunlight so the algae that live within them
can photosynthesise
Free water mud or sediment that may close the polyps
High energy to oxygenate the water

Most modern day coral feeds are found between 30 degrees north and
south of the equator. They are found generally on continental shelves,
close to land or as coral islands or atolls in the oceans.