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Cyphastrea (Faviidae)

Welcome to the Cyphastrea genus landing page. In this section, you will find general information about this genus and tips on how to identify it. If you are looking to confirm an observation made with the Coral Finder, use the image browser below to identify a growth form similar to what you saw underwater. Then choose one of the following links for further information: massive, or branching.

Vital Statistics

  • 8 species
  • Coral Finder p. 1c, 4c, 10
  • COTW – Vol 3 p.240-249


Widespread in the Indo-Pacific.

ID Tips

Generally Cyphastrea forms low mounds or thick encrusting colonies, however one species, Cyphastrea decadia grows in a branching form with an arrangement of radial and axial corallites reminiscent of Acropora.  Cyphastrea may be found in a wide array of reef zones from the sub-tropics to the tropics.

The first thing to note regarding Cyphastrea corallites is their size: small.  Although photos of this genus may look similar to those of other genera, when scale is examined, it is clear that Cyphastrea corallites are considerably smaller, forming low cones of 2-3mm in diameter.

Costae run down the outer edge of the corallite walls feeding into the colony surface which is covered in beaded spinules.  Close examination is needed to see these structures in the field; a cursory glance is not sufficient!

Similar Genera

The Coral Finder lists Cyphastrea in one key group with Astreopora being a possible candidate for confusion.  Note however the comment one page 1 of the Coral Finder discussing the similarity of Cyphastrea decadia to branching Acropora.

Similar genera to massive Cyphastrea (Coral Finder p10)

Cyphastrea can be confused with Astreopora species, but may be easily separated by corallite size and appearance of the spinules.  Cyphastrea corallites are small (2-3mm in diameter) and the spinules forming on the colony surface are beaded and regular.  Astreopora generally has larger corallites (up to 4mm) and the spinules are ragged in appearance.

Massive Cyphastrea

Similar genus: Astreopora

Similar genera to branching Cyphastrea (Coral Finder p1c)

Cyphastrea decadia, a branching coral, can look superficially like Acropora species, but may be separated by the beaded spinnules covering the surface of the colony between corallites on CyphastreaAcropora does not possess similar structures.

Cyphastrea decadia

Similar genus: Acropora


Taxonomic Changes

Learning Resources

Coral Hub

  • Faviidae family page


Suggested Reading – Identification Tools

  • Chen, C. L. A. (1999). Analysis of scleractinian distribution in Taiwan indicating a pattern congruent with sea surface temperatures and currents: Examples from Acropora and Faviidae corals. Zoological Studies, 38(2), 119-129.
  • Chevalier, J. P. (1975). Les scleractiniaires de la Melanesie Francaise.  II Expedition Francaise sur les recifs coralliens de la Nouvelle-Caledonie. Paris: Singer-Polignac.
  • Davie, P. J., & Phillips, J. A. (2009). 13th International Marine Biological Workshop, The Marine Fauna and Flora of Moreton Bay, Queensland. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum, 54(2), 1-118.
  • Huang, D. W., Meier, R., Todd, P. A., & Chou, L. M. (2009). More evidence for pervasive paraphyly in scleractinian corals: Systematic study of Southeast Asian Faviidae (Cnidaria; Scleractinia) based on molecular and morphological data. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 50(1), 102-116.
  • Veron, J. E. N. (1985). Corals of Australia and the Indo-Pacific. Sydney: Angus and Robertson.
  • Veron, J. E. N. (2000). Corals of the World. Melbourne: Australian Institute of Marine Science.
  • Veron, J. E. N. (2002). New species described in ‘Corals of the World’: Australian Institute of Marine Science.
  • Veron, J. E. N., Pichon, M., & Wijsman-Best, M. (1977). Scleractinia of Eastern Australia.  Part 2, Families Faviidae, Trachyphyllidae. Australian Institute of Marine Science Monograph Series, III, 233.
  • Wijsman-Best, M. (1972). Systematics and ecology of New Caldedonian Faviidae (Coelenterata Scleractinia). Bijdragen Dierkunde, 42, 1-90.
  • Wijsman-Best, M. (1980). Indo-pacific coral species belonging to the subfamily Montastreinae Vaughan and Wells, 1943 (Scleractiia, Coelenterata). Part II: The genera Cyphastrea, Leptastrea, Echinopora and Diploastrea. Zoologische Mededelingen, 55, 235-263.

Suggested Reading – Other Topics

  • Humes, A. G. (1979). Cyclopoid copepods (Lichomolgidae) associated with scleractinian Cyphastrea in New Caledonia. Pacific Science, 33(2), 195-206.
  • Mariscal, R. N., & Lenhoff, H. M. (1968). Chemical control of feeding behaviour in Cyphastrea ocellina and in some other Hawaiian corals. Journal of Experimental Biology, 49(3), 689-&.
  • Romano, S. L. (1990). Long term effects of interspecific agression on growth of the reef building corals Cyphastrea ocellina (Dana) and Pocillopora damicornis (Linnaeus). Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 140(1-2), 135-146.