Wrinkle coral (Coscinaraea monile)

Colony of Coscinaraea monile
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Wrinkle coral fact file

Wrinkle coral description

GenusCoscinaraea (1)

Coscinaraea monile is a common species of wrinkle coral that usually forms encrusting or dome-shaped colonies (3). These are often uniformly grey, but can vary between tan, brown and a mottled mixture of these colours (3). As with other colony-forming corals, the colonies of Coscinaraea monile are composed of numerous tiny, soft-bodied, anemone-like animals called polyps. The polyps secrete a hard skeleton known as a ‘corallite’, which over time contributes to the formation of coral reefs (3).

In Coscinaraea monile, the inward projections of the corallite (the ‘septa’) are even and finely serrated and give the colonies of this species a smooth surface (3). Each polyp also bears numerous tentacles that direct food into a central mouth, where it is digested in a sac-like body cavity (3).

Coscinarea donnani, Coscinarea ostreaeformis, Coscinastrea monile, Madrepora monile.

Wrinkle coral biology

A stand-out feature of coral species of the Coscinaraea genus is that they are generally cold tolerant, withstanding temperatures which would have lethal implications for other coral species (4) (5). Like many species of coral, Coscinaraea monile is ‘zooxanthellate’, meaning that the coral has unicellular algae known as zooxanthellae living within its tissues. The relationship between the coral and algae is symbiotic, with the coral receiving nutrients as the algae photosynthesise, and in return giving the algae a safe and stable environment to live in (3).


Wrinkle coral range

Coscinaraea monileis most commonly found in the Western Indian Ocean, with its range including the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian gulf (1) (3). Its range is known to extend to the central Indo-Pacific, including the East China Sea and waters around Papua New Guinea (1).


Wrinkle coral habitat

Coscinaraea monile occurs in most reef environments and can usually be found at depths of up to 50 metres (1) (3).


Wrinkle coral status

Coscinaraea monile is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1) and listed on Appendix II of CITES (2).

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern


Wrinkle coral threats

Although relatively common where it occurs (3), Coscinaraea monile faces many of the threats that are affecting coral reefs globally. An estimated 20 percent of the world’s coral reefs have already been destroyed (7) (8) and there is increasing pressure on coastal resources resulting from human population growth and development. Consequently, there has been a significant increase in domestic and agricultural waste in the oceans, poor land-use practices that result in an increase in sediment running onto reefs, and over-fishing, which can have ‘knock-on’ effects on the reef (7).

There are also many localised threats associated with human activity, including the use of dynamite and chemicals when attempting to collect reef fishes. Potentially, the ability of Coscinaraea species to survive colder temperatures may extend their habitat range, therefore reducing some of the pressures faced by these corals (7).

A major threat to corals worldwide is global climate change, with the expected rise in ocean temperatures increasing the risk of coral ‘bleaching’, in which the stressed coral expels its zooxanthellae, often resulting in death. Climate change may also lead to more frequent, severe storms, which can damage reefs, while rising carbon dioxide levels may make the ocean increasingly acidic. Such stresses can also make corals more susceptible to disease, parasites and predators, such as the crown of thorns starfish (Acanthaster planci) (1) (7) (8) (9).


Wrinkle coral conservation

In addition to being listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which makes it an offence to trade this species without a permit (2), Coscinaraea monilealso forms part of the reef community in several Marine Protected Areas (1). Recommendations for the future conservation of this species include research into various aspects of its biology, population status, habitat, and the threats to its survival (1).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
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Simple plants that lack roots, stems and leaves but contain the green pigment chlorophyll. Most occur in marine and freshwater habitats.
Of asexual reproduction: reproduction that does not involve the formation of sex cells (‘gametes’). In many species, asexual reproduction can occur by existing cells splitting into two, or part of the organism breaking away and developing into a separate individual. Some animals, including vertebrates, can also develop from unfertilised eggs; this process, known as parthenogenesis, gives rise to offspring that are genetically identical to the parent.
A group of organisms living together. In organisms such as corals, colonies may be composed of numerous genetically identical modules (also referred to as zooids or ‘individuals’), which are produced by budding and remain physiologically connected.
The fusion of gametes (male and female reproductive cells) to produce an embryo, which grows into a new individual.
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’ Latin species name; the second part is the specific name.
Possessing both male and female sex organs.
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.
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.
Capable of photosynthesis, a 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.
Typically sedentary soft-bodied component of Cnidaria, a group of simple aquatic animals including the sea anemones, corals and jellyfish. A polyp comprises a trunk that is fixed at the base, and a mouth that is placed at the opposite end of the trunk and is surrounded by tentacles.
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).
Tiny aquatic animals that drift with currents or swim weakly in water.


  1. IUCN Red List (July, 2011)
  2. CITES (July, 2011)
  3. Veron, J.E.N. (2000) Corals of the World. Australian Institute of Marine Science, Townsville, Australia.
  4. Veron, J.E.N. (1986) Corals of Australia and the Indo-Pacific. The Australian Institute of Marine Science, Australia.
  5. Goldstein, R.J. (2008) Marine Reef Aquarium Handbook. Barron's Educational Series, Inc, New York.
  6. Richmond, R.H. and Hunter, C.L. (1990) Reproduction and recruitment of corals: comparisons among the Caribbean, the Tropical Pacific, and the Red Sea. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 60: 185-203.
  7. Wilkinson, C. (2008) Status of Coral Reefs of the World: 2008. Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network and Reef and Rainforest Research Center, Townsville, Australia. Available at:
  8. Carpenter, K.E. et al. (2008) One-third of reef-building corals face elevated extinction risk from climate change and local impacts. Science, 321: 560-563.
  9. Miththapala, S. (2008) Coral Reefs. Coastal Ecosystems Series (Volume 1). Ecosystems and Livelihoods Group Asia, IUCN, Colombo, Sri Lanka. Available at:

Image credit

Colony of Coscinaraea monile  
Colony of Coscinaraea monile

© Steve Coles

Steve Coles, Ph. D


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