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Introduction

The oculinines are known from the Middle Cretaceous (about 100 million years ago) to the Recent, and are widespread in today's oceans in tropical to Subantarctic regions. Most species live on the continental shelf (0-200 m). However, one species, Madrepora oculata, occurs as deep as 2020 m; it is one of a dozen cosmopolitan species that occur in all oceans including the Subantarctic (Cairns, 1982), but not off continental Antarctica. Three-quarters of the species in this subfamily are azooxanthellate, whereas the others (Schizoculina and half of the Oculina species) are zooxanthellate, contributing to reef structure. However, even the deep-water species are capable of forming large colonies up to a meter tall, one species (Madrepora oculata) contributing to the framework of deep-water coral banks (Cairns and Stanley, 1982). Two other azooxanthellate species, Oculina varicosa and O. virgosa, produce bank-like structures at shelf depths (Reed, 1980). There are 20 Recent species in the subfamily, five of the seven Recent genera being monotypic. The most species-rich genus, Oculina, contains between 7 and 10 Recent species and is in need of revision. All oculinines form attached, dendroid colonies, usually through extratentacular budding. Species of the genus Madrepora live in symbiosis with polychaete worms, which cause the coral to form a perforated tube along its main axis. One species, Madrepora oculata, hosts parasitic ascothoracidan Crustacea that form galls beneath individual corallites and may cause these corallites to increase to many times their normal size (Grygier and Cairns, 1996)

 

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