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Heteropsammia (Dendrophyllidae)

Welcome to the Heteropsammia 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 verify what you saw underwater. Then click on the following link for further comparison with a similar genus: Heterocyathus.

The symbiotic relationship between scleractinian corals and the algae zooxanthellae is well known, but symbioses between scleractinians and other organisms are less recognised.  To cope with burial while inhabiting soft sediments, Heteropsammia houses a sipunculid worm which moves the coral when it becomes covered in sediment.  Interestingly a similar relationship is seen in the genus Heterocyathus, which is a member of a separate family, the Caryophyllidae.  Check out Hoeksema & Borel-Best (1991) in the suggested readings below, for more information.

Vital Statistics

  • 1 species
  • Coral Finder p. 26
  • COTW – Vol 2 p. 407


Found in the Indo-Pacific.

ID Tips

Heteropsammia forms small, free-living colonies.  The corallites are generally solitary, although some may form small colonies with multiple corallites.  They are found in soft bottom communities, in deeper reef areas.  Can be locally abundant and are often found with the similar looking Heterocyathus, and the fungiid Cycloseris.

The septa run out from the centre of the corallite, but do not extend down the flanks of the corallite which is tubular and smooth-walled, a characteristic of the Dendrophyllidae family.  The septa form a neat arrangement.

Similar Genera

The Coral Finder lists Heteropsammia in one key group with Heterocyathus being a possible candidate for confusion.

Similar genera to Heteropsammia (Coral Finder p26)

Free-living Heteropsammia may be confused with Heterocyathus.  They can however be easily separated by the smooth flanks of Heteropsammia, which lack the prominent costal ribs of Heterocyathus colonies.


Similar genus: Heterocyathus


Taxonomic Changes

Learning Resources

Coral Hub

  • Dendrophylliidae family page


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., & Pichon, M. (1980). Scleractinia of Eastern Australia.  Part 3, Families Agaraciidae, Siderastreidae, Fungiidae, Oculinidae, Merulinidae, Mussidae, Pectiniidae, Carophylliidae, Dendrophylliidae. Australian Institute of Marine Science Monograph Series, IV, 471.

Suggested Reading – Other Topics

  • Hoeksema, B. W., & Borel-Best, M. (1991). New observations on scleractinian corals from Indonesia.  2. Sipunculan associated species belonging to the genera Heterocyathus and Heteropsammia. Zoologische Mededelingen, 65, 221-245.