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Introduction

Representatives of this family occur from the early Jurassic (about 180 million years ago) to the Recent, and are widespread in the world oceans, commonly being found as fossils on all continents, including Antarctica (Filkorn, 1994). One hundred sixteen genera have been described, most of which (73 genera and 347 species) occur in the Recent (Cairns et al., 1999). Most are azooxanthellate (86% of the genera) and solitary in growth form (63% of the genera). Although colonies may reach a meter or more in size, most caryophyllioideans are small, rarely greater than 20-30 mm in size. Although several genera in this superfamily are colonial reef builders, most are inconspicuous, occurring cryptically in shallow-water environments or as benthos on the lower shelf and upper slope (0-2165 m).

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