Saturday, August 19, 2017


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Tubipora (Order Alcyonacea)

Welcome to the Tubipora 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.  The nature of this genus is highly distinctive, which means that it is unlikely to confuse it with other members of the group.

The genus Tubipora is a member of the coelenterate class Anthozoa, as are the scleractinians described in the Coral Finder and Coral Hub.  But unlike the scleractinians which are members of the subclass Hexacorallia, Tubipora is a member of the subclass Octocorallia (also known as the Alcyonarians).  This group of corals have polyps encircled by 8 tentacles that are bordered by rows of delicate pinnules.  For more information, check out the Octocorallia page on Coral Hub.

Vital Statistics

  • 2+ species
  • Coral Finder p. 27c, 29
  • COTW – Vol 3 p. 406-407


Found in the Indo-Pacific.

ID Tips

Tubipora colonies are small domes composed of red vertical tubes containing polyps, with horizontal connecting plates.  This arrangement of tubes is reminiscent of an organ, hence the common name ‘Organ pipe coral’.  Zooxanthellae are also found within the tissues

The polyps are pale grey to dull green in colour.  The tentacles, which are arranged in sets of eight around each polyp mouth, are delicate and feather-like, with thin pinnules bordering the main tentacle.  The extended polyps hide the distinctive arrangement of skeletal tubes; wafting your hand over the surface of the colony will cause the tentacles to retract exposing the red skeleton underneath.

Similar Genera

The Coral Finder lists Tubipora in one key group with other non-scleractinians, but the distinctive skeleton of the Tubipora makes it easy to differentiate from other genera.  If you are uncertain about the characteristics of this coral, causing the polyps to retract will expose the skeleton, leading to successful identification.


The skeleton of Tubipora is popular in the manufacture of jewellery due to its bright, distinctive red colouration.

Taxonomic Changes

At present only one species of Tubipora is well known; the appropriately called Tubipora musica.  However, there is suggestion that at least four different species may occur.  For more information check out the learning resources below.

Learning Resources

Coral Hub

  • Octocorallia page


Suggested Reading – Identification Tools

  • Fabricus, K. & Alderslade, P. (2001).  Soft Corals and Sea Fans.  Melbourne: Australian Institute of Marine Science.
  • Veron, J. E. N. (2000). Corals of the World. Melbourne: Australian Institute of Marine Science.

Suggested Reading – Other Topics