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Goniopora (Poritidae)

Welcome to the Goniopora 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 on a Goniopora with extended tentacles, use the image browser below to identify a genus similar to what you saw underwater. Then choose one of the following links for further comparison with similar genera: Alveopora, or soft corals.

You may not immediately think of corals as aggressive, but when it comes to protecting their patch of substrate, some genera have made sedentary attack a fine art.  Goniopora is one such coral, using long sweeper tentacles to harass neighbouring organisms and clear space for growth.  Check out the coral competition video for more info.

Vital Statistics

  • 24 species
  • Coral Finder p. 27, 28
  • COTW – Vol 3 p. 348-379


Found in the Indo-Pacific.

ID Tips

Goniopora may form massive, branching or columnar colonies.  These growth-forms are often masked by flower-like polyps that sit at the end of long wafting tubes, resulting in an organism that looks more like a soft coral than the hard, solid appearance typical of scleractinians.  Colonies tend of be found in shallow regions or where waters are turbid.

The polyp mouths are ringed by a circle of 24 tentacles.  The polyp shape, size and colour can be used to identify species, and as a result this is one of the few groupings that is easier to differentiate underwater than from the bleached skeleton.

When the polyps retract, the hard colony surface is revealed, exposing small corallites with shared walls that are similar to other members of the Poritidae family.

(slide show with photos of polyps extended and retracted)

Similar Genera

The Coral Finder lists Goniopora in two key groups with Alveopora being the main candidate for confusion.

Similar genera to Goniopora with tentacles extended (Coral Finder p27)

The long, wafting polyps of Goniopora are similar to those of Alveopora.  These two genera can easily be separated by counting the number of tentacles ringing the mouth of the polyp: Goniopora has 24 tentacles and Alveopora has 12.  If uncertainty arises over whether you are looking at Goniopora or a soft coral, waft you hand over the extended polyps; if they retract to expose the hard skeleton, identification as Goniopora will be certain.

Goniopora with tentacles extended

Similar genus: Alveopora

Similar group: Soft corals


Taxonomic Changes

Learning Resources

Coral Hub

  • Poritidae family page
  • Coral competition video


Suggested Reading – Identification Tools

  • 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.
  • 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. (1982). Scleractinia of Eastern Australia.  Part 4, Families Poritidae. Australian Institute of Marine Science Monograph Series, V, 210.

Suggested Reading – Other Topics

  • Glynn, P. W., Colley, S. B., Eakin, C. M., Smith, D. B., Cortes, J., Gassman, N. J., et al. (1994). Reef coral reproduction in the Eastern Pacific – Costa Rica, Panama, and Galapagos Islands (Ecuador). 2. Poritidae. Marine Biology, 118(2), 191-208.
  • Guest, J. R., Todd, P. A., Goh, B. P. L., & Chou, L. M. (2007). The effect of transplantation on reproduction in clonal ramets of Goniopora columna on Singapore’s coral reefs. Invertebrate Reproduction & Development, 50(3), 133-138.
  • Gunthorpe, L., & Cameron, A. M. (1990). Toxic exudate from the hard coral Goniopora tenuidens. Toxicon, 28(11), 1347-1350.
  • Muramatsu, I., & Fujiwara, M. (1985). Cardioactive marine toxins.  Goniopora toxin and palytoxin. Journal of Pharmacobio-Dynamics, 8(4), S75-S75.
  • Peach, M. B., & Hoegh-Guldberg, O. (1999). Sweeper polyps of the coral Goniopora tenuidens (Scleractinia : Poritidae). Invertebrate Biology, 118(1), 1-7.