Tubastraea coccinea (orange-cup coral) has been introduced to all continents except Antarctica and is thought to compete with native benthic invertebrates for space and to compromise their communities. The reduction of native sponges and native corals could also have significant flow-on effects for entire ecosystems.
Tubastraea coccinea (orange-cup coral) are non-reef building coral species that extend beautiful translucent tentacles at night (Hawaii Coral Reef Network 2005). The orange cup coral is a heterotroph (consumer) that does not contain zooxanthellae (endosymbiotic dinoflagellates or algae) as most corals do (Blomquist et al. 2006).
Native range: Tubastraea coccinea (orange-cup coral) is native to the Indo-Pacific region (Fenner and Banks 2004). Known introduced range: Caribbean (Fenner and Banks 2004), Asia, Africa, Australasia, Pacific, North America, Central America and South America.
The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.
T. coccinea (orange-cup coral) inhabit shaded vertical surfaces and caverns down to huge depths. Orange-cup-corals are also found in very cold water throughout the world (Hawaii Coral Reef Network, 2005). Orange-cup corals often dominate tropical habitats not occupied by other coral species, such as wrecks and cryptic reef habitats (Vermeij 2006). They also colonise artificial structures (Fenner and Banks, 2004; Sammarco et al., 2004) but experiments have demonstrated similar preferences for granite, cement, steel and tile (Creed and De Paula, 2007). In Brazil they are most abundant in the shallow sub-tidal zone at shallow depths between 0m and 3m (De Paula and Creed, 2004, 2005; Creed, 2006).
Nutrition Cup-coral species rely upon capturing zooplankton as food (Hawaii Coral Reef Network 2005).
Reproduction Tubastraea coccinea is hermaphroditic and produces planulae (flat, free-swimming, ciliated larva) asexually (ameiotically) (Ayre and Resing 1986). Gonads are unlikely to be involved in the asexual production of brooded larvae (Ayre and Resing 1986). It is able to form “runners” (a thin tissue outgrowth lacking polyps) which extend at a growth rate of up to 10.4cm per year until they encounter unoccupied patches of substratum. New polyps then form at the end of the runners (Vermeij 2005).
Lifecycle stages The reproductive age of the Tubastraea coccinea is around 1.5 years and growth averages at approximately 3cm² per year (Vermeij 2006). It increases in local abundance by reaching maturity at a small size and producing planula at an early age (Vaughan 1919; Van Moorsel 1989; Fenner and Banks 2004, in Vermeij 2006).
Introduction pathways to new locations Ship/boat hull fouling: Many colonies of Tubastraea coccinea (orange-cup coral) were found on the hulls of wrecked ships and sunken docks in shaded areas (Fenner and Banks, 2004), and on a ships hull in Brazil (Ferreira, 2003; Creed & Paula 2007). Translocation of machinery/equipment: Mobile platforms could have contributed to dispersal of Tubastraea coccinea (orange-cup coral) to the Gulf of Mexico oil and gas platforms (Fenner and Banks, 2004, Sammarco et al. 2004). In Brazil introduction was probably through oil and gas platforms (Ferreira, 2003; De Paula & Creed, 2005).
Local dispersal methods Natural dispersal (local):Tubastraea coccinea (orange-cup coral) larvae are competent for at least 14 days (Harrison & Wallace, 1990), although most settle within 1m of adults (Creed & Paula 2007).
Although Tubastraea coccinea (orange-cup coral) is listed on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species website and database (see Tubastraea coccinea in CITES species Database) it often competes with other benthic invertebrates for substratum space (Vermeij 2006). This may put native species at risk, particularly sponges and native corals. Local exclusion or extinction of such species may occur and the removal of the native corals may reduce the production of the entire ecosystem, compromising ecosystem functions (Creed 2006).
Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.
Manual: In Brazil a control and eradication programme called “Projeto Coral-Sol” is removing Tubastraea coccinea from the environment (Joel Creed, pers.comm., 2007).
Ayre, D.J. and Resing, J.M. 1986. Sexual and asexual production of planulae in reef corals, Marine Biology 90: 187-190.
Blomquist, C.H., Lima, P.H., Tarrant,A.M., Atkinson,M.J. and Atkinson, S. 2006. 17ß-Hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (17ß-HSD) in scleractinian corals and zooxanthellae, Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology, Part B 143: 397-403.
Guzman, H.M., Guevara, C.A. and Breedy, A.O. 2004. Distribution, diversity, and conservation of coral reefs and coral communities in the largest marine protected area of Pacific Panama (Coiba Island), Environmental Conservation 31(2): 111–121.
Harrison P.L. & Wallace, C.C. 1990. Reproduction, dispersal and recruitment of scleractinian corals. In: Dubinsky Z (ed) Ecosystems of the World: Coral Reefs. Elsevier Science, New York p 133-207.
Vermeij, M.J.A. 2005. A novel growth strategy allows Tubastrea coccinea to escape small-scale adverse conditions and start over again, Coral Reefs 24: 442.
Vermeij, M.J.A. 2006. Early life-history dynamics of Caribbean coral species on artificial substratum: the importance of competition, growth and variation in life-history strategy, Coral Reefs 25: 59-71.