Astrea annuligera

Marine researchers and scientists now have a new guide to help them carry out their work to accurately identify and classify Western Australia’s hard corals. Hard corals, or scleractinian corals, are a diverse group of threatened species that are incredibly important to the growth and productivity of coral reef ecosystems in general.

To document coral diversity and detect changes in coral communities it is important to collect robust and taxonomically accurate data. To enable that, Western Australian Museum Research Associate Dr Zoe Richards has updated The Coral Compactus, Western Australia, Hard Coral Genus Identification Guide that she first created in 2016 to consolidate the data in one user-friendly manual.

“The taxonomic data is generally published in a range of scientific journals, including some that are more obscure, making it difficult for non-taxonomists to keep up with the changes. This manual is the first of its kind to synthesise the changes in a user-friendly way,” Dr Richards said.

The manual is a summary of the new classification system that Dr Richards said has emerged in scleractinian corals from a decade of integrated molecular and taxonomic research undertaken by various research groups around the globe.

“To-date, The Coral Compactus is the only identification manual available that provides an illustrated synopsis of the current accepted coral classification as reflected on the World Register of Marine Species.

“The initial intention of this guide was to provide coral identification material to support research, monitoring and biodiversity conservation in Western Australia. However, it also includes the majority of coral genera that are found in the wider Indo-Pacific region making it a relevant resource in these provinces.”

Because the manual is the first to summarise the wide-ranging changes that have occurred to the coral classification system over the last decade, it is a valuable capacity-building tool for the various students, academic and applied researchers working with corals.

“It has been designed to provide an introduction to the key characteristics required to identify shallow water, reef building corals to the genus level with the intention of bridging the gap between taxonomists, biologists and resource managers.”

Version 2 of the manual presents a synopsis of the currently accepted scleractinian coral classification system as of May 2018.

“Some of the changes incorporated into Version 2 include, but are not restricted to, the designation of the genus Symphyllia as a junior synonym of genus Lobophyllia; the movement of Parascolymia rowleyensis into the genus Lobophyllia; the designation of the endemic Western Australian species Symphyllia wilsoni into a new genus called Australophyllia and the shuffling of species that previously belonged to the genus Montastraea into three other genera (Astrea, Favities, Paramontastraea).

“New photographs have also been added to provide further visual aids to help identify corals,” Dr Richards said.

The manual can be downloaded from the following link:

This project was supported by the WA Museum, Woodside Energy and the Australian Government Department of Environment and Energy, through the Australian Biological Resources Study.


Media contact
Flora Perrella
Media and Communications Officer
Western Australian Museum