Cantharellus coral (Cantharellus noumeae)

Cantharellus noumeae polyps growing together
IUCN Red List species status – Endangered ENDANGERED

Top facts

  • The Cantharellus coral gains its name from its likeliness to chanterelle mushrooms, which have the same genus name.
  • Similarly to many other corals, the Cantharellus coral receives the majority of its energy from symbiotic algae, known as ‘zooxanthellae.’
  • The Cantharellus coral produces a hard external skeleton to protect it from predators.
  • The Cantharellus coral is likely to reproduce similarly to other corals, which release eggs and sperm simultaneously during mass spawning events.
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Cantharellus coral fact file

Cantharellus coral description

GenusCantharellus (1)

Unlike many other corals which form colonies, the Cantharellus coral (Cantharellus noumeae) is a solitary species which remains attached to a substrate during both the adult and juvenile stages. The coral is mushroom-like in appearance and is dome shaped, with a flat or concave upper surface, and either a circular or elongate outline (3). This coral species has mottled brown colouration, and is attached to the substrate by a stony stalk (4)

The Cantharellus coral has a central, slit-like mouth, from which the coral’s hard exoskeleton, also known as ‘corallite,’ is formed (4). The corallite is textured with ridges, also known as septa, and either have a serrated or frayed appearance. Septa can also alternate in height and vary in thickness (2).

The corals of the genus Cantharellus acquired their name because of their resemblance to chanterelle mushrooms (3).

Diameter: 2.5 - 6.5 cm (3)

Cantharellus coral biology

Cantharellus noumeae can be found growing solitarily or within small colonies (3). Cantharellus species are a ‘stony’ coral, which means that they excrete calcium carbonate to form a corallite while they grow. The exoskeleton protects the coral from threats such as predation, and when combined with other coral skeletons it leads to the formation of reefs (4).

Cantharellus coral receives the majority of its energy from symbiotic algae, known as ‘zooxanthellae’, which live within the coral tissues. The algae require sunlight for photosynthesis, which provides energy for both the algae and the coral (4).

The reproductive methods of the Cantharellus coral are currently unknown. However, they are likely to be similar to other coral species within the Fungiidae family. Within this family, individuals are either male or female and reproduce sexually. Reproduction occurs during mass spawning events in which both eggs and sperm are released into the open ocean. When two gametes fuse together, they develop to form a larva which searches for a suitable habitat. When a suitable substrate is found, the larva attaches itself and continues to develop (4).


Cantharellus coral range

Cantharellus noumeae occurs in New Caledonia, Australia, the Red Sea (5), Indonesia (1) and Papua New Guinea (6).


Cantharellus coral habitat

The Cantharellus coral is found in tropical, marine waters, including sheltered bays and sandy lagoons (3). This species is found at depths of between 10 and 20 metres (1).


Cantharellus coral status

Cantharellus noumeae is classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1) and listed on Appendix II of CITES (2).

IUCN Red List species status – Endangered


Cantharellus coral threats

Similarly to all corals, the Cantharellus coral is threatened due to habitat degradation. Sedimentation from mining activities is a prominent threat to this species, as the excess sediment can smother the coral, reduce nutrient availability and encourage algal growth (1).

Global climate change is a major threat to all coral species, as changes in temperature and acidity in the ocean can lead to coral bleaching and increased susceptibility to disease (7).


Cantharellus coral conservation

All Cantharellus corals are listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which means that trade in this and other Cantharellus species is regulated within countries that have agreed to the convention. Within these countries, the trade of corals is only permissible for those with a permit to do so (2). Some Cantharellus corals inhabit areas which fall within marine protected areas, or areas in which other management plans are in place to protect the coral community (1). In New Caledonia, there are many established World Heritage Sites which help protect and manage roughly 60 percent of reefs within the surrounding waters (4).

Recommendations for conserving this species include raising public awareness in areas within its range, doing further research into its ecology, expanding and creating additional protected areas, managing disease and restoring areas of suitable habitat (1). It is also important to reduce global emissions of greenhouse gases to prevent the adverse weather conditions and ocean acidification that occur due to climate change and are highly damaging to all coral species worldwide (4).


Find out more

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This species information was authored as part of the Arkive and Universities Scheme.


Simple plants that lack roots, stems and leaves but contain the green pigment chlorophyll. Most occur in marine and freshwater habitats.
An external skeleton that supports and protects an animal’s body.
A reproductive cell which carries the genetic information from an individual, and is capable of fusing with a gamete of the opposite sex to produce a fertilised egg. In animals, male gametes are called sperm and female gametes are called ova.
A category used in taxonomy, which is below ‘family’ and above ‘species’. A genus tends to contain species that have characteristics in common. The genus forms the first part of a ‘binomial’ scientific species name; the second part is the specific name.
Immature stage in an animal’s lifecycle, after it hatches from an egg and before it changes into the adult form. Larvae are typically very different in appearance to adults; they are able to feed and move around but are usually unable to reproduce.
Metabolic process characteristic of plants in which carbon dioxide is broken down, using energy from sunlight absorbed by the green pigment chlorophyll. Organic compounds are made and oxygen is given off as a by-product.
Thin dividing walls or partitions. In a coral, the septa are the partitions that project inwards from the skeleton wall of an individual coral polyp (a marine animal with tentacles that lives within a hard skeleton it secretes around itself).
Describes a relationship in which two organisms form a close association. The term is now usually used only for associations that benefit both organisms (a mutualism).


  1. IUCN Red List (January, 2014)
  2. CITES (January, 2014)
  3. Hoeksema, B.W. and Best, M.B. (1984) Cantharellus noumeae (gen. nov., spec. nov.), a new scleractinian coral (Fungiidae) from New Caledonia. Zoologische Mededelingen, 58: 323-328.
  4. Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) (February, 2014)
  5. Licuanan, W.Y. and Capili, E.B. (2004) New records of stony corals from the Philippines previously known from peripheral areas of the Indo-Pacific. The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology, 52: 285-288.
  6. Allen, G.R., Kinch, J.P., McKenna, S.A. and Seeto, P. (2003) A Rapid Marine Biodiversity Assessment of Milne Bay Province, Papua New Guinea Survey II (2000) Conservation International, Washington, DC. Available at:
  7. Burke, L., Reytar, K., Spalding, M. and Perry, A. (2011) Reefs at Risk Revisited. World Resources Institute, Washington DC. Available at:

Image credit

Cantharellus noumeae polyps growing together  
Cantharellus noumeae polyps growing together

© Emre Turak / From Coral ID (Veron and Stafford-Smith, 2002)

Charlie (J.E.N) Veron


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