Devonshire cup coral (Caryophyllia smithii)

Devonshire cup coral
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Devonshire cup coral fact file

Devonshire cup coral description

GenusCaryophyllia (1)

The Devonshire cup-coral, Caryophyllia smithii, is a small, colourful coral that looks remarkably like a sea-anemone (3). The whitish, cup-shaped external skeleton, the 'corallum', has many curved ridges and makes up the rocky cylindrical base in which the soft body part (the polyp) is held (2) (4). The beautiful and delicate-looking polyp may be a range of colours, including red, pink, orange, white, green or brown, and a contrasting, more opaque colour zig-zags around the central, elongated, slit-like mouth (2) (3) (5). Up to 80 tentacles, arranged in three circles, rise from the soft body part, and each terminates in a prominent, spherical white or brown knob (2) (5) (6). Although generally solitary, the Devonshire cup coral can occasionally be found in clusters of two to four individuals (4), and a barnacle (Pyrgoma anglicum) is commonly found attached to the external skeleton (2).

Height: 1.5 cm (2)
Diameter: 2.5 cm (2)

Devonshire cup coral biology

The Devonshire cup coral is a suspension feeder, relying on zooplankton and organic particles as a main food source, which are captured in the tentacles as they float past in the water (7).

Gametes develop within the adult corals between January and March, and are then discharged through the mouth of the polyp into the open sea water, where fertilisation takes place. The free-swimming larvae (or ‘planulae’) are fully formed after 48 hours, when feeding commences. After eight to ten weeks, the larvae are fully developed and ready to settle on the substrate and develop into adult corals (8).


Devonshire cup coral range

The Devonshire cup coral can be found in south-west Europe, the Mediterranean, and in Britain, where it occurs around the south and west coasts, north to the Shetland Islands (2) (6).


Devonshire cup coral habitat

This cool water coral is found in rocky areas attached to rocks, stones, shells and even artificial structures (2) (4). It is most abundant below the low tide line, down to depths of 200 metres (2), but may also be found on the shore in deep, shaded pools, as well as at depths down to 1,000 metres (4) (5).  


Devonshire cup coral status

Listed on Appendix II of CITES (1).


Devonshire cup coral threats

Although the specific threats to the Devonshire cup coral are not clearly documented, the threats that coastal species face in Britain, and elsewhere, are clear. Species inhabiting rocky seabed areas in Devon, south-west England, are impacted by fishing activities (such as trawling and dredging), pollution, and recreational use (such as diving and boating) (9), and these threats are likely to be seen elsewhere throughout this cup coral’s range.    


Devonshire cup coral conservation

There are currently no known specific conservation measures in place for the Devonshire cup coral. However, a number of conservation organisations are working to protect the marine life of Britain, the Mediterranean, and the rest of Europe (10) (11) (12).


Find out more

To find out about marine conservation around Britain’s coasts see:

 To learn about efforts to conserve the Mediterranean environment see:



This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:

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


The fusion of gametes (male and female reproductive cells) to produce an embryo, which grows into a new individual.
A reproductive cell which carries the genetic information from their parent, and is capable of fusing with a gamete of the opposite sex to produce a fertilized egg. In animals, male gametes are called sperm and female gametes are called ova.
Stage in an animal’s lifecycle after it hatches from the egg. Larvae are typically very different in appearance to adults; they are able to feed and move around but usually are unable to reproduce.
Typically sedentary soft-bodied component of Cnidaria (such as corals and sea pens), which comprise of a trunk that is fixed at the base; the mouth is placed at the opposite end of the trunk, and is surrounded by tentacles.
Suspension feeder
An animal that feeds on small particles suspended in water.
Tiny aquatic animals that drift with currents or swim weakly in water.


  1. CITES (August, 2010)
  2. Fish, J.D. and Fish, S. (1996) A Student’s Guide to the Seashore. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  3. Duncan, F.M. (1918) How Animals Work. T.C. and E.C. Jack, London.
  4. Gregory, P. (2008) Caryophyllia smithii. Devonshire Cup Coral. Marine Life Information Network, Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, Plymouth. Available at:
  5. Marine Species Identification Portal (May, 2010)
  6. Hayward, P.J. and Ryland, J.S. (1995) Handbook of the Marine Fauna of North-West Europe. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  7. BIOTIC – Biological Traits Catalogue (May, 2010)
  8. Tranter, P.R.G., Nicholson, D.N. and Kinchington, D. (1982) A description of spawning and post-gastrula development of the cool temperate coral, Caryophyllia smithi. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, 62: 845-854.
  9. Devon Biodiversity Partnership (2009) The Nature of Devon: a Biodiversity and Geodiversity Action Plan. Devon County Council, Exeter. Available at:
  10. Marine Conservation Society (June, 2010)
  11. Natural England (June, 2010)
  12. WWF (June, 2010)

Image credit

Devonshire cup coral  
Devonshire cup coral

© David Nance /

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