News / Species Spotlight / Daisy Coral (Alveopora spp.) (11/28/18)

Daisy Coral (Alveopora spp.)

Species Spotlight - Daisy Coral (Alveopora spp.)
Goniopora and Alveopora are a pair of similarly shaped stony corals that aquarists often confuse for one another. Both feature elongated polyps that sway attractively in the current, and it may seem a safe assumption that these groups would be closely related. This is certainly how early generations of researchers felt, grouping the two together within the family Poritidae, but recent genetic studies revealed a surprisingly different state of affairs. Alveopora and Goniopora are in fact likely to be very distant relations, and probably have been since the Jurassic period!

Instead, while Goniopora is indeed the sister group to Porites (essentially, it is like a Porites with extra-long polyps and 24, versus 12, tentacles), Alveopora belongs to the Acroporidae. This group includes two of the most familiar of stony coralsAcropora & Montiporaalong with the lesser-known Isopora, Anacropora, and Astreopora, and it has a considerably different structure to its skeleton, lacking the fused septa common to the poritids. The skeletal differences hadnt gone unnoticed, but they were generally treated as being less important than the great similarity in the living polyps.

To tell Alveopora from Goniopora, simply count the tentacles per polyp: 12 in the former, 24 in the latter. But identifying beyond that is perilously difficult. There are presently 15 recognized species, but the genus has never been adequately studied and no doubt there will be many changes to our understanding of this groups biodiversity. Close study of the skeleton if required to attempt an identification, which is why the corals in this genus are rarely ever given a species name in the aquarium trade. The common name of Dairy Coral is sometimes applied to them, which shouldnt be confused with the popular soft coral known as the Daisy Polyp (Knopia sp.).

Aquarium care for Alveopora is similar in many respects to Goniopora and other SPS groups. Most will thrive in medium or high-light conditions, with moderate or high water flow and stable chemical parameters. But it is of course hard to generalize for such a diverse genus, and no doubt there are significant husbandry preferences to be expected depending on which species is being kept. Some species are noted to originate from rocky shores exposed to strong wave action, while others are known only from the placid conditions of lower reef slopes. Naturally, some trial and error may be required before finding the perfect spot within an aquarium for an Alveopora.

Despite their relatively large polyps, Alveopora is similar to most of the small-polyped stony corals in showing a limited response to feeding in aquariums. Placing a piece of chopped shrimp onto a polyp will result in it being rejected, and even finer foods fail to show any obvious ingestion. So is it important to feed an Alveopora? That is a very good question without a clear answer.

Lastly, Alveopora are lovers, not fighters, and can generally be placed in close proximity to many other types of corals without causing harm.