This World list of Scleractinia ever described is part of the World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS), a global initiative to provide an online register of scientific names of all marine organisms. In this continuously updated list, users can find the taxonomic classification of scleractinians, with valid and invalid names of families, genera and species.
Owing to their calcareous (calcium carbonate) skeletons, scleractinian corals are well known as “stony corals”. They have been major reef-builders since the Triassic and became dominant after the Cretaceous. Nowadays, coral reefs are of economic importance as a source for food and as recreational attraction. Corals are important to other reef species that use them as food, shelter and substrate. Due to their attractive shape and colours, corals are harvested for the aquarium trade. They are popular research objects for many marine scientists. Hence, scleractinian corals have essential ecological, economic and scientific roles. Thus, there is a need for detailed overview of their names and classification. This overview has become available through the Word list of Scleractinia.
Scleractinia is an order in the subclass Hexacorallia, together with the subclasses Ceriantharia and Octocorallia. The three subclasses constitute the class Anthozoa, which is part of the phylum Cnidaria.
- Phylum Cnidaria
This section of the World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS) presents a continuously updated overview of scientific names and classifications of stony corals belonging to the order Scleractinia. This list started with overviews presented by Van der Land (1994) and Cairns et al. (1999, 2001). It was partly revised by Cairns (2009) for azooxanthellate species, which is periodically updated at: www.lophelia.org/coldwatercoralsbook. Taxa have been entered in the WoRMS database since 2007, for which the online Aphia platform of the Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ) is used. Details on the history of WoRMS are presented by Appeltans et al. (2008, 2011), Costello et al. (2013) Horton et al. (2017), and Vandepitte et al. (2015, 2018). Through WoRMS, the contents of World list of Scleractinia is also updated in the Catalogue of Life (CoL)
Background and goal
A separate portal for the World list of Scleractinia has been introduced in 2018 to increase the list's recognition and visibility. It is aimed to present names that result from a science-based taxonomy, in which morphological and molecular criteria are used (Kitahara et al. 2016). In the last decade, various phylogeny reconstructions of scleractinian families and genera were published; for example on Acropora and Isopora (Wallace et al. 2007), Psammocoridae (Benzoni et al. 2010), Fungiidae (Gittenberger et al. 2011; Benzoni et al. 2012, Oku et al. 2017), Agariciidae (Kitahara et al. 2012), Deltocyathiidae (Kitahara et al. 2013), Dendrophylliidae (Arrigoni et al. 2014a), Lobophylliidae (Arrigoni et al. 2014b; Huang et al. 2016), Merulinidae (Huang et al. 2014), Pocilloporidae (Schmidt-Roach et al. 2014), and Poritidae (Kitano et al. 2014). Application of these phylogenetic models to taxonomic revisions resulted in new classifications, in which taxa moved from one genus or family to another one, usually forming new combination names.
A science-based approach is usually not practiced in field guides and other popular publications, where the classification reflects the superficial overall similarity of coral morphologies. In the World list of Scleractinia, many species that resemble each other because of convergent evolution have become separated and do not belong to the same genus or even family anymore. This is not a new development. In the past, some superficially resembling species were also classified in different genera and families when their skeletal characters revealed other affinities, such as in the genera Heterocyathus (Caryophylliidae) and Heteropsammia (Dendrophyllidae). Both genera represent free-living, mobile corals that host a sipunculan worm inside their skeleton (Hoeksema and Best 1991, Hoeksema and Matthews 2015). They look very similar because of their convergent evolution but the structures of their skeletons differ and reveal that they are phylogenetically not closely related. One has to recognize the species by itself in order to know its name and not through its generic position.
Synonyms and old combination names are also mentioned in the World list of Scleractinia. When pages of specific taxa are consulted, information on their validity and possible synonyms is given. Valid new names are entered as soon as possible after their official publication. When the status of a name is unclear, it is indicated as nomen dubium (name of unknown or doubtful application) or nomen inquirendum (doubtful identity requiring further investigation). More explanations on the use of World list of Scleractinia can be found on the homepage of WoRMS
Two categories of scleractinians
World list of Scleractinia contains 1 683 valid names of living coral species, which either house symbiont unicellular algae of the genus Symbiodinium, or not, or only facultatively so, and are therefore categorized as zooxanthellate, azooxanthellate, or apozooxanthellate, respectively (Schuhmacher and Zibrowius 1985, Best 2001, Hoeksema and Matthews 2015). Most zooxanthellate coral species (about 50% of the total number) are reef-building (hermatypic) and live in warm, shallow water, whereas the majority of azooxanthellate scleractinians occur in deep, cold water, where only a couple of species are reef-building. So far, less than 100 names of extinct scleractinians are included but it is the intention of the editors to include more in the future. The editorial work is divided by the following editors:
CitationUsage of data from the World list of Scleractinia in scientific publications should be acknowledged by citing as follows:
- Hoeksema, B. W.; Cairns, S. (2023). World List of Scleractinia. Accessed at https://www.marinespecies.org/scleractinia on 2023-10-01
Individual pages are individually authored and dated. These can be cited separately: the proper citation is provided at the bottom of each page.
- Appeltans W, Costello MJ, Vanhoorne B, Decock W, Vandepitte L, Hernandez F, Mees J, Vanden Berghe E. 2008. Aphia for a World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS). In: Mees J, Seys J (eds) Book of Abstracts VLIZ. Young Scientists’ Day, Brugge, Belgium, 29 February 2008. VLIZ Special Publication 40, Vlaams Instituut voor de Zee, Oostende, Belgium, p. 27.
- Appeltans W, Decock W, Vanhoorne B, Hernandez F, Bouchet P, Boxshall G, Fauchald K, Gordon DP, Hoeksema BW, Poore GCB, van Soest R, Stöhr S, Walter C, Costello M.J. 2011. The World Register of Marine Species: an authoritative, open-access web-resource for all marine species. In: Proceedings of the Future of the 21st Century Ocean: Marine Sciences and European Research Infrastructures, an International Symposium, Brest, France, 28 June–1 July 2011. Europole Mer, Plouzané, p. 30
- Arrigoni R, Kitano YF, Stolarski J, Hoeksema BW, Fukami H, Stefani F, Galli P, Montano S, Castoldi E, Benzoni F. 2014a. A phylogeny reconstruction of the Dendrophylliidae (Cnidaria, Scleractinia) based on molecular and micromorphological criteria, and its ecological implications. Zoologica Scripta 43: 661–688.
- Arrigoni R, Terraneo TI, Galli P, Benzoni F. 2014b. Lobophylliidae (Cnidaria, Scleractinia) reshuffled: pervasive non-monophyly at genus level. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 73: 60–64.
- Benzoni F, Stefani F, Pichon M, Galli P. 2010. The name game: morpho-molecular species boundaries in the genus Psammocora (Cnidaria, Scleractinia). Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 160: 421–456.
- Benzoni F, Arrigoni R, Stefani F, Reijnen BT, Montano S, Hoeksema BW. 2012. Phylogenetic position and taxonomy of Cycloseris explanulata and C. wellsi (Scleractinia: Fungiidae): lost mushroom corals find their way home. Contributions to Zoology 81: 125–146.
- Best, M.B. 2001. Some notes on the terms “deep-sea ahermatypic” and “azooxanthellate”, illustrated by the coral genus Madracis. In: Willison JHM, Hall J, Gass SE, Kenchington ELR, Butler M, Doherty P (eds) Proceedings of the First International Symposium on Deep-Sea Corals. Ecology Action Centre and Nova Scotia Museum, Halifax, pp. 19–29.
- Cairns SD. 2009. On line appendix: Phylogenetic list of the 711 valid Recent azooxanthellate scleractinian species with their junior synonyms and depth ranges, 28 pp. In: Roberts JM, Wheeler AJ, Freiwald A, Cairns SD (eds) Cold-Water Corals: The Biology and Geology of Deep-Sea Coral Habitats. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. http://www.lophelia.org/online-appendices.
- Cairns SD, Hoeksema BW, Van der Land J. 1999. Appendix, list of extant stony corals. Atoll Research Bulletin 459: 13–46.
- Cairns SD, Hoeksema BW, Van der Land J. 2001. Scleractinia. In: Costello MJ, Emblow C, White R (eds), European Register of Marine Species. A checklist of the marine species in Europe and a bibliography of guides to their identification. Patrimoines Naturels 50: 109–110.
- Costello MJ, Bouchet P, Boxshall G, Fauchald K, Gordon D, Hoeksema BW, Poore GCB, Van Soest RWM, Stöhr S, Walter TC, Vanhoorne B, Decock W, Appeltans W. 2013. Global Coordination and standardisation in marine biodiversity through the World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS) and related databases. PLoS ONE 8: e51629.
- Gittenberger A, Reijnen BT, Hoeksema BW. 2011. A molecularly based phylogeny reconstruction of mushroom corals (Scleractinia: Fungiidae) with taxonomic consequences and evolutionary implications for life history traits. Contributions to Zoology 80: 107–132.
- Hoeksema BW, Best MB. 1991. New observations on scleractinian corals from Indonesia: 2. Sipunculan-associated species belonging to the genera Heterocyathus and Heteropsammia. Zoologische Mededelingen 65: 221–245.
- Hoeksema BW, Matthews JL. 2015. Partial bleaching in an assemblage of small apozooxanthellate corals of the genera Heteropsammia and Heterocyathus. Coral Reefs 34: 1227.
- Huang D, Benzoni F, Fukami H, Knowlton N, Smith ND, Budd AF. 2014. Taxonomic classification of the reef coral families Merulinidae, Montastraeidae, and Diploastraeidae (Cnidaria: Anthozoa: Scleractinia). Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 171: 277–355.
- Huang D, Arrigoni R, Benzoni F, Fukami H, Knowlton N, Smith ND, Stolarski J, Chou LM, Budd AF. 2016. Taxonomic classification of the reef coral family Lobophylliidae (Cnidaria: Anthozoa: Scleractinia). Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 178: 436–481.
- Kitahara MV, Stolarski J, Cairns SD, Benzoni F, Stake JL, Miller DJ. 2012. The first modern solitary Agariciidae (Anthozoa, Scleractinia) revealed by molecular and microstructural analysis. Invertebrate Systematics 26: 303–315.
- Kitahara MV, Cairns SD, Stolarski J, Miller DJ. 2013. Deltocyathiidae, an early-diverging family of Robust corals (Anthozoa, Scleractinia). Zoologica Scripta 42: 201–212.
- Kitahara, MV, Fukami H, Benzoni F, Huang D. 2016. The new systematics of Scleractinia: integrating molecular and morphological evidence. In: Goffredo S, Dubinsky Z (eds.) The Cnidaria, past, present and future: The world of medusa and her sisters. Springer Netherlands, Dordrecht, pp. 41–59.
- Kitano YF, Benzoni F, Arrigoni R, Shirayama Y, Wallace CC, Fukami H. 2014. A phylogeny of the family Poritidae (Cnidaria, Scleractinia) based on molecular and morphological analyses. PLoS ONE 9: 98406.
- Oku Y, Naruse T, Fukami H. 2017. Morpho-molecular evidence for polymorphism in the mushroom coral Cycloseris hexagonalis (Scleractinia: Fungiidae), with a new phylogenetic position and the establishment of a new genus for the species. Zoological Science 34: 242–251.
- Schmidt-Roach S, Miller KJ, Lundgren P, Andreakis N. 2014. With eyes wide open: a revision of species within and closely related to the Pocillopora damicornis species complex (Scleractinia; Pocilloporidae) using morphology and genetics. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 170: 1–33.
- Schuhmacher H, Zibrowius H. 1985. What is hermatypic? A redefinition of ecological groups in corals and other organisms. Coral Reefs 4: 1–9.
- Vandepitte L, Vanhoorne B, Decock W, Dekeyzer S, Trias Verbeeck A, Bovit L, Hernandez F, Mees J. 2015. How Aphia - the platform behind several online and taxonomically oriented databases - can serve both the taxonomic community and the field of biodiversity informatics. Journal of Marine Science Engineering 3: 1448–1473.
- Vandepitte L, Vanhoorne B, Decock W, Vranken S, Lanssens T, Dekeyzer S, Verfaille K, Horton T, Kroh A, Hernandez F, Mees J. 2018. A decade of the World Register of Marine Species – General insights and experiences from the Data Management Team: Where are we, what have we learned and how can we continue? PLoS ONE 13: e0194599.
- Van der Land, J (ed).1994. UNESCO-IOC Register of Marine Organisms. A common base for biodiversity inventories. Families and bibliography of keyworks. DOS-formatted floppy disk. Leiden: National Museum of Natural History (Naturalis).
- Wallace CC, Chen CA, Fukami H, Muir PR. 2007. Recognition of separate genera within Acropora based on new morphological, reproductive and genetic evidence from Acropora togianensis, and elevation of the subgenus Isopora Studer, 1878 to genus (Scleractinia: Astrocoeniidae: Acroporidae). Coral Reefs 26: 231–239.
All illustrations: Bert W. Hoeksema