Taxonomic name: Tubastraea coccinea Lesson, 1829
Synonyms: Astropsammia pedersenii , Caryophyllia aurantiaca , Coenopsammia affinis , Coenopsammia aurea , Coenopsammia coccinea , Coenopsammia ehrenbergiana, Coenopsammia manni , Coenopsammia radiata, Coenopsammia tenuilamellosa , Coenopsammia urvillii , Coenopsammia willeyi , Dendrophyllia affinis , Dendrophyllia aurantiaca , Dendrophyllia danae , Dendrophyllia ehrenbergiana , Dendrophyllia manni , Dendrophyllia surcularis , Dendrophyllia turbinata , Dendrophyllia willeyi , Lobophyllia aurea , Placopsammia darwini , Tubastraea aurea , Tubastraea pedersenii , Tubastraea tenuilamellosa, Tubastraea willeyi
Common names: colonial-cup coral (English), orange-cup coral (English), orange-tube coral (English), tubastrée orange (French)
Organism type: coral
Tubastraea coccinea (orange-cup coral) has been introduced to all continents except Antarctica and is thought to compete with native benthic invertebrates for space and to compromise their communities. The reduction of native sponges and native corals could also have significant flow-on effects for entire ecosystems.
Tubastraea coccinea (orange-cup coral) are non-reef building coral species that extend beautiful translucent tentacles at night (Hawaii Coral Reef Network 2005). The orange cup coral is a heterotroph (consumer) that does not contain zooxanthellae (endosymbiotic dinoflagellates or algae) as most corals do (Blomquist et al. 2006).
coastland, marine habitats
Tubastraea coccinea (orange-cup coral) inhabit shaded vertical surfaces and caverns down to huge depths. Orange-cup-corals are also found in very cold water throughout the world (Hawaii Coral Reef Network 2005). Orange-cup corals often dominate tropical habitats not occupied by other coral species, such as wrecks and cryptic reef habitats (Vermeij 2006). They also colonise artificial structures (Fenner and Banks 2004, Sammarco et al. 2004) but experiments have demonstrated similar preferences for granite, cement, steel and tile (Creed & De Paula 2007). In Brazil they are most abundant in the shallow sub-tidal zone at shallow depths between 0m and 3m (De Paula & Creed, 2004, 2005, Creed 2006).
Although Tubastraea coccinea (orange-cup coral) is listed on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species website and database (see Tubastraea coccinea in CITES species Database) it often competes with other benthic invertebrates for substratum space (Vermeij 2006). This may put native species at risk, particularly sponges and native corals. Local exclusion or extinction of such species may occur and the removal of the native corals may reduce the production of the entire ecosystem, compromising ecosystem functions (Creed 2006).
Native range: Tubastraea coccinea (orange-cup coral) is native to the Indo-Pacific region (Fenner and Banks 2004).
Known introduced range: Caribbean (Fenner and Banks 2004), Asia, Africa, Australasia, Pacific, North America, Central America and South America.
Introduction pathways to new locations
Ship/boat hull fouling: Many colonies of Tubastraea coccinea (orange-cup coral) were found on the hulls of wrecked ships and sunken docks in shaded areas (Fenner and Banks, 2004), and on a ships hull in Brazil (Ferreira, 2003; Creed & Paula 2007).
Translocation of machinery/equipment: Mobile platforms could have contributed to dispersal of Tubastraea coccinea (orange-cup coral) to the Gulf of Mexico oil and gas platforms (Fenner and Banks, 2004, Sammarco et al. 2004). In Brazil introduction was probably through oil and gas platforms (Ferreira, 2003; De Paula & Creed, 2005).
Local dispersal methods
Natural dispersal (local): Tubastraea coccinea (orange-cup coral) larvae are competent for at least 14 days (Harrison & Wallace, 1990), although most settle within 1m of adults (Creed & Paula 2007)
Manual: In Brazil a control and eradication programme called “Projeto Coral-Sol” is removing Tubastraea coccinea from the environment (Joel Creed, pers.comm., 2007).
Cup-coral species rely upon capturing zooplankton as food (Hawaii Coral Reef Network 2005).
Tubastraea coccinea is hermaphroditic and produces planulae (flat, free-swimming, ciliated larva) asexually (ameiotically) (Ayre and Resing 1986). Gonads are unlikely to be involved in the asexual production of brooded larvae (Ayre and Resing 1986). It is able to form “runners” (a thin tissue outgrowth lacking polyps) which extend at a growth rate of up to 10.4cm per year until they encounter unoccupied patches of substratum. New polyps then form at the end of the runners (Vermeij 2005).
The reproductive age of the Tubastraea coccinea is around 1.5 years and growth averages at approximately 3cm² per year (Vermeij 2006). It increases in local abundance by reaching maturity at a small size and producing planula at an early age (Vaughan 1919; Van Moorsel 1989; Fenner and Banks 2004, in Vermeij 2006).
Reviewed by: Prof. Dr. Joel Christopher Creed, Laboratorio de Ecologia Marinha Bentica Departamento de Ecologia - IBRAG
Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro - Uerj, Brazil
Compiled by: IUCN/SSC Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG) with support from La Fondation d'entreprise Total
Last Modified: Tuesday, 29 May 2007