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Biology

Fungia corals can reproduce sexually or asexually (4). During sexual reproduction, eggs and sperm are released into the water where the egg is fertilised and develops into larvae (3). Within a fortnight, the larvae will settle on to hard substrate (4). Asexually reproduced young coral, or acanthocauli, can develop from partly buried, damaged or dying parent tissue. Either way, the result is vase-shaped polyp that gradually grows into a flattened disc, attached to the substrate via a stalk (3). The stalk of the 'mushroom' eventually dissolves, and the coral becomes mobile. The newly mobile coral rests on the bottom where it will mature and reproduce. The mobility of adult Fungia corals allows them to expand the reef by moving down-slope onto the soft substratum. This is an important process in reef ecosystems as it provides a hard substrate for other corals to establish and shelter for other invertebrates (3) (4). Fungia corals are abundant on unstable substrates and in volatile environments, uninhabited by many other coral species, and are able to withstand sedimentation, breakage and immersion by freshwater for short periods of time. To survive in such environments, Fungia corals are particularly successful in their ability to repair and regenerate their tissues and skeleton. When repair is impossible, asexual reproduction allows them to repopulate an area following a catastrophe (5). When Fungi are in immediate contact with other hard corals, they secrete a mucus that can damage coral tissues and prevents the over growth of these neighbouring corals. This mucus also plays a role in removing sediment from the coral, and facilitating in food capture (4). Fungia corals have been observed feeding on jellyfish, which may be their main food source, and is possibly the reason why these corals possess such large mouths. Occasionally, parasites reside inside the mouth; one particular parasite species, Fungiacava eilantensis, is found nowhere else in the world (3).

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Source: ARKive

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