Madrepora oculata

Zigzag coral (Madrepora oculata)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Cnidaria
Class: Anthozoa
Subclass: Hexacorallia
Order: Scleractinia
Genus: Madrepora
Species: M. oculata
Binomial name
Madrepora oculata
Linnaeus, 1758

Madrepora oculata, also called zigzag coral, is a Scleractinia (stony coral) that is found worldwide outside of the polar regions, growing in deep water at depths of 80–1500 meters. It was first described by Linnaeus in 1758.[1] It is one of only 12 species of coral that are found worldwide, including in Subantarctic oceans.[2] In some areas, such as in the Mediterranean Sea and the North-east Atlantic Ocean, it dominates communities of coral.[3]


The species is quite variable in its tendency to branch, its texture and color and other aspects, even within specimens in the same coral colony.[1] It is bushy, growing in small colonies that form thickets, creating matrices that are fan-shaped and about 30 to 50 cm high. It has thick skeletal parts that grow in a lamellar pattern.[4] As its skeleton is fragile and unable to sustain a large framework, it is usually found among stronger coral, such as Lophelia pertusa and Goniocorella dumosa, that offer protection. In areas where it dominates, it is usually found in rubble and debris rather than in coral reefs.[3]

Madrepora oculata produces large amounts of mucus that is extracellular or outside the cell membranes. The mucus acts in a protective capacity to shield the coral skeleton from attacks of destructive pests.[4]


The first instances of seeming neoplasms in a coral were reported in a species of Madrepora in Hawaiian waters in which hypertrophied corallites or skeletons in the coral were noted. Similarly hypertrophied corallites were described in colonies of Madrepora oculata near northwestern Australia and Japan, as well as in the Formosa Strait and other areas, but have never been confirmed. A recent provisional reinterpretation is that these abnormal corallites are a form of internal gall, an abnormal swelling or growth caused by infection by a parasite, rather than a neoplasm caused by mutation.[5]


  1. 1 2 "Antarctic Invertebrates: Madrepora oculata". Retrieved 2009-10-30.
  2. "NOAA's Coral Reef Information System (CoRIS) - Deep Water Corals". Retrieved 2009-10-30.
  3. 1 2 "What is Madrepora oculata?" (PDF). Deepsea Conservation for the United Kingdom Project. Retrieved 2009-10-30.
  4. 1 2 Reitner, Joachim. "Calcifying extracellular mucus substances (EMS) of Madrepora oculata". Retrieved 2009-10-30.
  5. Mark J. Grygier,, Stephen D. Cairns (January 4, 1996). "Suspected neoplasms in deep-sea corals (Scleractinia: Oculinidae: Madrepora spp.) reinterpreted as galls caused by Petrarca madreporae n. sp. (Crustacea: Ascothoracida: Petrarcidae)" (PDF). Diseases of Aquatic Organisms. Retrieved 2009-10-30.

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