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Symphyllia (Mussidae)

Welcome to the Symphyllia 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 genus similar to what you saw underwater. Then choose one of the following links for further comparison with similar genera: Pectinia, Oulophyllia, or Lobophyllia.

Corals have the potential to provide an array of goods and services to humans, and Symphyllia is no exception.  A study by Chen et al., (2007) found that the mucus covering Symphyllia colonies forms an antibacterial defensive layer, and that the antibacterial agent may be extracted and potentially used by humans in a similar antibacterial role.  See the suggested reading list below for more information.

Vital Statistics

  • 7 species
  • Coral Finder p. 9
  • COTW – Vol 3 p.52-63


Widespread in the Indo-Pacific.

ID Tips

Symphyllia forms domed mounds or thick-encrusting colonies, and are found across reef zones.  Some species are common.

The corallites sit in wide valleys (15-35mm) with fused walls.  The top of the walls are marked by a thin groove.  The colony surface is covered by a thick fleshy mantle that hides most of the skeletal structures, but the large spiky septal teeth may be felt through the tissue.  The fleshy mantle produces a carpet-like texture.

The thick fleshy mantle and spiky septa are common to all members of the Mussidae.

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Similar Genera

The Coral Finder lists Symphyllia in one key group, with Pectinia, Oulophyllia, and to a lesser extent Lobophyllia being candidates for confusion.

Similar genera to Symphyllia (Coral Finder p9)

Symphyllia can be confused with Oulophyllia and Pectinia but they are easily separated by the distinctive fleshy polyps, spiky septal teeth, and clear groove at the apex of the walls, typical of Symphyllia. Oulophyllia and Pectinia colonies are more skeletal and have smoother septa.


Similar genus: Oulophyllia

Similar genus: Pectinia

Similar genera to Symphyllia (Coral Finder p6)

The fleshy polyps and spiky septal teeth typical of Symphyllia are similar to those of Lobophyllia (CF p6), but Symphyllia forms longer valleys with fused walls, whereas the walls of Lobophyllia are separate and the corallites are generally rounded or form short meanders.

Similar genus: Lobophyllia


Taxonomic Changes

Learning Resources

Coral Hub

  • Mussidae family page


Suggested Reading – Identification Tools

  • Budd, A. F., & Stolarski, J. (2009). Searching for new morphological characters in the systematics of scleractinian reef corals: comparison of septal teeth and granules between Atlantic and Pacific Mussidae. Acta Zoologica, 90(2), 142-165.
  • 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.
  • 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

  • Chen, G. H., Huang, L. M., Tan, Y., Yin, J. Q., Wang, H. K., Huang, H., et al. (2007). Antibacterial substance from mucus of a scleractinian coral, Symphyllia gigantea. Acta Oceanologica Sinica, 26(2), 140-143.