Wednesday, September 20, 2017


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Montipora (Acroporidae)

Welcome to the Montipora 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: plating/vase, or branching.

On first inspection the details of Montipora are small and indistinct, but up close, if there’s one genus that showcases nature’s amazing intricacies, Montipora is it.  The skeletal structures on the colony surface (coenosteum) take on an amazing array of delicate and elaborate forms ranging from ridges to bumps to spines.  These structures often mask the tiny corallites, but peer a little closer and you may see a dusting of brightly coloured tentacles encircling the individual polyps.

Vital Statistics

  • 75 species
  • Coral Finder p. 3, 5, 18, 22, 23
  • COTW – Vol 1 p.62-167


Widespread in Indo-Pacific region.

ID Tips

Growth form may be contorted branches, columnar, encrusting or plates and vases.  In many instances you may see a combination of forms within the one colony for example branches arising from thin plates (CF p. 5).  Overall Montipora is a common genus although individual species may be rare.

Photos can be deceptive, it is important to realise that the corallites of Montipora are tiny, and centres look dark or empty.  Skeletal surface is covered in intricate structures. Species level identification is generally based on life-form and the intricate skeletal structures (see COTW Vol. 1 p. 64-65 for more info).

These spinules and the porous skeleton are typical of the family Acroporidae.

(slide show with photos of wide range of different types of coenosteum patterning and scales with corallites to show how small they are)

Similar Genera

The Coral Finder lists Montipora in three key groups with Porites, Anacropora and Hydnophora, being candidates for confusion.

Similar genera to plating and vase forms of Montipora (Coral Finder p18, 22 & 23)

Once you get your head around the very small size of Montipora corallites, the most common confusion is between Montipora and Porites which has similarly small polyps.  Vase forms of Montipora can be easily differentiated from Porites as the latter does not form vases, rather it forms plating or encrusting corallites.  With plating forms, to differentiate between the two genera you need to look into the centre of the individual corallites: in Montipora the corallite centres tend to look like a dark hole, whereas in the centre of Porites corallites look solid or skeletal elements are obvious.  In addition Porites do not possess the intricate surface structures of Montipora.

Plating and vase Montipora

Similar genus: Porites

Similar genera to branching forms of Montipora (Coral Finder p3 &p5)

Branching forms of Montipora can be confused with Anacropora but are easily separated by the blunt branch tips and immersed corallites typical of Montipora.

Montipora may also form colonies with contorted branches that look superficially similar to Hydnophora.   The corallites of Montipora are small and look ‘empty’ like tiny pin holes, where as the corallites of Hydnophora are larger and are located between conical bumps called monticules which are distinctly different from the contortions on branching Montipora.

In addition, Porites may form branching colonies, but once again the corallite detail described above can be used to differentiate between the genera.

Branching Montipora

Similar genus: Anacropora

Similar genus: Hydnophora

Similar genus: Porites

(photos showing close up of corallites of Montipora and Porites showing dark centres in the former and structures in the latter)


Mussels and barnacles may be spotted filter feeding from a secure base bored into the skeleton of Montipora.

(photos of mussels or barnacles in Monitpora)

Taxonomic Changes

Learning Resources

Coral Hub

  • Acroporidae 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.
  • Fukami, H., Omori, M., & Hatta, M. (2000). Phylogenetic relationships in the coral family Acroporidae, reassessed by inference from mitochondrial genes. Zoological Science, 17(5), 689-696.
  • van Oppen, M. J. H., Koolmees, E. M., & Veron, J. E. N. (2004). Patterns of evolution in the scleractinian coral genus Montipora (Acroporidae). Marine Biology, 144(1), 9-18.
  • 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., & Wallace, C. C. (1984). Scleractinia of Eastern Australia.  Part 5, Family Acroporidae.

Suggested Reading – Other Topics

  • Canepa, J. (2009). Effect of Increased Temperature on the Growth of the Corals Montipora digitata and Zoanthus sp. In Vitro Cellular & Developmental Biology-Animal, 45, S58-S58.
  • Cox, E. F. (2007). Continuation of sexual reproduction in Montipora capitata following bleaching. Coral Reefs, 26(3), 721-724.
  • Nishikawa, A., Kinzie, R. A., & Sakai, K. (2009). Fragmentation and genotypic diversity of the scleractinian coral Montipora capitata in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, 89(1), 101-107.
  • Sato, Y., Bourne, D. G., & Willis, B. L. (2009). Dynamics of seasonal outbreaks of black band disease in an assemblage of Montipora species at Pelorus Island (Great Barrier Reef, Australia). Proceedings of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences, 276(1668), 2795-2803.