Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Tubastraea coccinea
(orange-cup coral)



Tubastraea coccinea (orange-cup coral)


  • Last modified
  • 19 November 2019
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Tubastraea coccinea
  • Preferred Common Name
  • orange-cup coral
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Metazoa
  •     Phylum: Cnidaria
  •       Class: Anthozoa
  •         Genus: Tubastraea
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • 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 thei...

  • There are no pictures available for this datasheet

    If you can supply pictures for this datasheet please contact:

    CAB International
    OX10 8DE
  • Distribution map More information

Don't need the entire report?

Generate a print friendly version containing only the sections you need.

Generate report


Top of page

Preferred Scientific Name

  • Tubastraea coccinea Lesson, 1829

Preferred Common Name

  • orange-cup coral

Other Scientific Names

  • Astropsammia pedersenii
  • Caryophyllia aurantiaca
  • Coenopsammia affinis
  • Coenopsammia aurea
  • Coenopsammia coccinea
  • Coenopsammia ehrenbergiana
  • Coenopsammia manni
  • Coenopsammia radiata
  • Coenopsammia tenuilamellosa
  • Coenopsammia urvillii
  • Coenopsammia willeyi
  • Dendrophyllia affinis
  • Dendrophyllia aurantiaca
  • Dendrophyllia danae
  • Dendrophyllia ehrenbergiana
  • Dendrophyllia manni
  • Dendrophyllia surcularis
  • Dendrophyllia turbinata
  • Dendrophyllia willeyi
  • Lobophyllia aurea
  • Placopsammia darwini
  • Tubastraea aurea
  • Tubastraea pedersenii
  • Tubastraea tenuilamellosa
  • Tubastraea willeyi

International Common Names

  • English: colonial-cup coral; orange-tube coral
  • French: tubastrée orange

Summary of Invasiveness

Top of page

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.

Taxonomic Tree

Top of page
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Metazoa
  •         Phylum: Cnidaria
  •             Class: Anthozoa
  •                 Genus: Tubastraea
  •                     Species: Tubastraea coccinea


Top of page

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).


Top of page

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.

Distribution Table

Top of page

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.

Last updated: 10 Feb 2022
Continent/Country/Region Distribution Last Reported Origin First Reported Invasive Reference Notes


Cabo VerdePresent


British Indian Ocean TerritoryPresent
ChinaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
Cocos IslandsPresent
Hong KongPresent
Saudi ArabiaPresent
South KoreaPresent
Sri LankaPresent

North America

British Virgin IslandsPresentIntroduced
Cayman IslandsPresentIntroduced
Costa RicaPresent
Dominican RepublicPresentIntroduced
Netherlands AntillesPresentIntroduced
Puerto RicoPresentIntroduced
Turks and Caicos IslandsPresentIntroduced
U.S. Virgin IslandsPresentIntroduced
United StatesPresentIntroduced1991


American SamoaPresent
-New South WalesPresent
-Western AustraliaPresent
Christmas IslandPresent
French PolynesiaPresent
Marshall IslandsPresentIntroduced
New CaledoniaPresent
New ZealandPresentIntroduced
-Kermadec IslandsPresentIntroduced
Northern Mariana IslandsPresent

South America

BrazilPresentIntroducedInvasiveFirst reported: 1980s
-Galapagos IslandsPresent


Top of page

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).

Habitat List

Top of page
LittoralCoastal areas Present, no further details
Marine Present, no further details

Biology and Ecology

Top of page

Cup-coral species rely upon capturing zooplankton as food (Hawaii Coral Reef Network 2005).

    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).

        Means of Movement and Dispersal

        Top of page

        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).

          Pathway Causes

          Top of page
          CauseNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
          Hitchhiker Yes Yes

          Pathway Vectors

          Top of page
          VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
          Ship hull fouling Yes Yes

          Impact Summary

          Top of page
          Environment (generally) Negative
          Native fauna Negative


          Top of page

          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).

          Risk and Impact Factors

          Top of page
          Impact outcomes
          • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
          • Threat to/ loss of native species
          Impact mechanisms
          • Competition (unspecified)
          • Fouling

          Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

          Top of page

          Cladopsammia eguchii is often confused with the well-known orange cup coral in Hawaii (Hawaii Coral Reef Network 2005).

            Prevention and Control

            Top of page

            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).


            Top of page

            Alvarado, J.J., Cortés, J., Fernández, C. and Nivia, J. 2005. Coral communities and reefs of Ballena Marine National Park, Pacific coast of Costa Rica, Cinecias Marinas 31(4): 641-651.

            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.

            Brook, F.J. 1999. The coastal scleractinian coral fauna of the Kermadec Islands, southwestern Pacific Ocean, Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand 29 (4): 435-460.

            Centre for Environment, Fisheries & Aquaculture Science (CEFAS)., 2008. Decision support tools-Identifying potentially invasive non-native marine and freshwater species: fish, invertebrates, amphibians.

            Cortés, 1990. The coral reefs of Golfo Dulce, Costa Rica: distribution and community structure. Smithsonian Institution: Washington.

            Cortés, H.J., Glynn, P.W. and Richmond, R.H. 1990. Coral mortality associated with dinoflagellate blooms in the eastern Pacific (Costa Rica and Panama), Marine Ecology Progress Series 60(3): 299-304

            Creed, J.C. 2006. Two invasive alien azooxanthellate corals, Tubastraea coccinea and Tubastraea tagusensis, dominate the native zooxanthellate Mussismilia hispida in Brazil, Coral Reefs 25: 350.

            Creed, J.C., Paula, A.F. De, 2007. Substratum preference during recruitment of two invasive alien corals onto shallow-subtidal tropical rocky shores. Mar Ecol Progr Ser 330: 101-111

            De Paula A F, Creed J C, 2004. Two species of the coral Tubastraea (Cnidaria, Scleractinia) in Brazil: a case of accidental introduction. Bull Mar Sci 74:175–183

            De Paula A F, Creed J C, 2005. Spatial distribution and abundance of nonindigenous coral genus Tubastraea (Cnidaria, Scleractinia) around Ilha Grande, Brazil. Bras J Biol 65: 661–673

            Fenner, D. and Banks, K. 2004. Orange Cup Coral Tubastraea coccinea invades Florida and the Flower Garden Banks, Northwestern Gulf of Mexico, Coral Reefs 23: 505-507.

            Fenner, D., Clark, T.H., Turner, J.R. and Chapman, B. 2004. A checklist of the corals of the island state of Rodrigues, Mauritius, Journal of Natural History 38: 3091-3102.

            Ferreira, C.E.L. 2003. Non-indigenous corals at marginal sites, Coral Reefs 22: 498.

            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.

            Hawaii Coral Reef Network. 2005. Family Dendrophyllidae: Cup Corals.

            Ridgl, B. and Velimirov, B. 1994. The structure of coral communities at Hurghada in the nothern Red Sea, PSZNI: Marine Ecology 15(3/4): 213-231.

            Sammarco P W, Atchison A D, Boland G S, 2004. Expansion of coral communities within the Northern Gulf of Mexico via offshore oil and gas platforms. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 280: 129–143

            UNEP-WCMC, 2008. UNEP-WCMC Species Database: CITES-Listed Species Tubastraea coccinea (orange-cup coral)

            USGS (United States Geological Survey). 2006. Tubastrea cocinea. Retrieved 9 January 2007, from Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database.

            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.


            Top of page
              Reviewed by: Prof. Dr. Joel Christopher Creed, Laboratorio de Ecologia Marinha Bentica Departamento de Ecologia - IBRAG Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro - Uerj, Brazil
              Compiled by: IUCN/SSC Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG) with support from La Fondation d'entreprise Total
              Last Modified: Tuesday, May 29, 2007

            Distribution Maps

            Top of page
            You can pan and zoom the map
            Save map
            Select a dataset
            Map Legends
            • CABI Summary Records
            Map Filters
            Third party data sources: