Wednesday, September 20, 2017


Leptoseris (Agariciidae)

Welcome to the Leptoseris 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 then use the image browser below to view some of the variation possible in Leptoseris or choose one of the following links for further comparison with similar genera: Pavona, Psammocora, or Coscinaraea.

Vital Statistics

  • 15 species
  • Coral Finder p. 7, 18, 20, 21, 22
  • COTW – Vol 2 p. 202-220


Two species are known from the Atlantic. Leptoseris is a widespread and diverse genus in the Indo-Pacific.

ID Tips

Leptoseris is a shade-lover that prefers lower reef slopes, walls or overhanging areas.  Like Pavona it exhibits a wide range of morphologies (tiers, vases, thin encrusting, crumpled thick encrusting, leafy) in response to changing environmental conditions. The lack of corallite walls and smooth flowing septocostae are typical of the family Agariciidae.

Leptoseris varies a great deal in both colony and corallite form. Thankfully, many of these forms are distinctive. The captioned slideshow below is designed to give you a feel for what Leptoseris species can do and highlights the many distinctive “looks”. Note! Because of the range of variation shown by the species in this genus not all of the distinctive characteristics apply to every specimen – so learn the different looks and don’t fixate on the presence or absence of a particular character. Often the different looks equate with different species.

Mouse-over image to pause slide show.

The combination of no clearly defined corallite walls and fine, non-granular septocostae which connect one corallite to the next produce a flowing pattern over the colony surface.  Corallites are inclined towards the edge of the colony and may be grouped in rows between ridges or folds in the colony surface.  Leafy or plating species are unifacial – i.e. having corallites on only one side.

Similar Genera

The Coral Finder lists Leptoseris within three key groups with other members of the Agariciidae and Siderastreidae families that also exhibit flowing septocostae; Pavona, Psammocora, and Coscinaraea. The Septocostae Learning Group outlined in Coral Finder Training Movie 6 details how to untangle Pavona, Psammocora and Coscinaraea. While Leptoseris also has septo-costae it is usually easily recognised by it’s own distinctive thin plating growth forms. There are however some Pavona species with growth forms that overlap with Leptoseris species and which can be quite tricky for beginners. Indeed, Charlie Veron remarks in Corals of the World that the distinction between Leptoseris and Pavona can sometimes be “arbitrary”.  Don’t despair – most of the time it’s easy!  Watch the following slide show for some side by side underwater examples.

Similar genera to Leptoseris (Coral Finder p7, 18, 20-22)

Similar genus: Pavona

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Similar genus: Pavona

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Similar genus: Pavona

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Similar genus: Coscinaraea

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Similar genus: Psammocora

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Taxonomic Changes

The genus Leptoseris underwent major changes 30 years ago, when 17 species were determined to be synonyms and were reorganised under one species name, leaving nine accepted species.  Today 15 species are recognised.  For more information check out Dinesen (1980) and Corals of the World (Veron, 2000 and 2002) in the suggested reading list below.

Learning Resources

Coral Hub


Suggested Reading – Identification Tools

  • Dai, C.-F., & Lin, C.-H. (1992). Scleractinia of Taiwan: III. Family Agariciidae. Acta Oceanographica Taiwanica, 0(28), 80-101.
  • 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.
  • Dinesen, Z. D. (1980). A revision of the coral genus Leptoseris (Scleractinia: Fungina: Agariciidae). Memoirs of the Queensland Museum, 20(1), 182-235.
  • Leyte-Morales, G. E., Bonilla, H. R., Cintra-Buenrostro, C. E., & Glynn, P. W. (2001). Range extension of Leptoseris papyracea (Dana, 1846) to the west coast of Mexico. Bulletin of Marine Science, 69(3), 1233-1237.
  • Licuanan, W. Y., & Alino, P. M. (2009). Leptoseris kalayaanensis (Scleractinia: Agariciidae).  A new coral species from the Philippines. Raffles Bulletin of Zoology, 57(1), 1-4.
  • 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.

Suggested Reading – Other Topics

  • Chan, Y. L., Pochon, X., Fisher, M. A., Wagner, D., Concepcion, G. T., Kahng, S. E., et al. (2009). Generalist dinoflagellate endosymbionts and host genotype diversity detected from mesophotic (67-100 m depths) coral Leptoseris. BMC Ecology, 9, Article No.: 21.