Conservation begins with education

As there is a lot of information below, please take your time to look at all.

- Vertebrates are animals with spines (i.e. fish);
- Invertebrates are animals without spines (i.e. corals & octopuses).

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Cnidaria
Class: Anthozoa
Order: Scleractinia

Common name(s):  Hard corals, Stony corals or Reef building corals

General Details

Scleractinia, also called stony corals, are marine corals that generate a hard skeleton. They first appeared in the Middle Triassic and descended from the tabulate and rugose corals that barely survived the end of the Permian. Much of the framework of modern coral reefs is formed by scleractinians. Stony corals numbers are expected to decline due to the effects of global warming.

There are two groups of Scleractinia:
Compound corals live in colonies in clear shallow tropical waters; they are the world's primary reef-builders.
Solitary corals are found in all regions of the oceans and do not build reefs. In addition to living in tropical waters some solitary corals live in temperate, polar waters, or below the photic zone down to 6,000 meters (20,000 ft).

Data provided by: 
Wikipedia / Accessed December 2014

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Cnidaria
Class: Anthozoa
Order: Alcyonacea

Common name(s):  Soft corals or Octocorallia

Descriptive Details

The Alcyonacea, or soft corals, are an order of corals which do not produce calcium carbonate skeletons and are distinguished by the eight tentacles on each polyp. Soft corals contain minute, spiny skeletal elements called sclerites, useful in species identification. Sclerites give these corals some degree of support and give their flesh a spiky, grainy texture that deters predators. In the past soft corals were thought to be unable to lay new foundations for future corals, but recent findings suggest that colonies of the leather-coral genus Sinularia are able to cement sclerites and consolidate them at their base into alcyonarian spiculite, thus making them reef builders.

Related orders in the subclass Octocorallia include Sea pens, Sea fans, Sea whips, Bamboo coral and Xenias.


Unlike stony corals, most soft corals thrive in nutrient-rich waters with less intense light. Almost all utilize symbiotic photosynthesizing zooxanthella as a major energy source. However, most will readily eat any free floating food, such as zooplankton, out of the water column. They are integral members of the reef ecosystem and provide habitat for fish, snails, algae and a diversity of other marine species.

Data provided by: 
Wikipedia / Accessed December 2014

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Cnidaria
Class: Hydrozoa

Common name(s):  Hydroids or Hydrozians

General Details

The Hydrozoa is a subgroup of cnidarians containing approximately 3700 species. It is a diverse group with a variety of life cycles, growth forms, and specialized structures. Like many cnidarians, hydrozoans have both polyp and medusa stages in their life cycle. They are distinguished from other groups by their complex life cycle, by the growth of medusae from buds rather than strobilae or from metamorphosis, by the presence of a velum inside the bell of the medusa, and by the production of gametes from ectodermal, rather than endodermal, tissue. Most hydrozoans are marine, and hydrozoan species are found in nearly every marine habitat type; a very few species live in freshwater. Most hydrozoans form colonies of asexual polyps and free-swimming sexual medusae. Colonies are usually benthic, but some, notably the siphonophores, are pelagic floaters. Colonial polyps often have some division of function, with certain polyps specialized for defense, feeding, or reproduction. Most hydrozoans are predators or filter-feeders, though a few have symbiotic algae (zooxanthellae), in the same way that other other groups of cnidarians do.

Better-known hydrozoans include Portuguese man-o-wars (Physalia physalis), the freshwater genus Hydra, fire coral (Milleporidae), and by-the-wind sailors (Velella velella).

Descriptive Details

Most hydrozoan species have a planktonic larval stage called a planula. Planulae are radially symmetric ovoids, often covered with flagellate cells for swimming. They may be very simple embryos or have cells differentiated into several types. Planulae most often settle onto a benthic substrate and develop into a polyp.

Polyps are radially symmetric, and may be urn-shaped, conical, cylindrical, or club-shaped. In most species they are only a few millimeters tall, though the largest grow up to many centimeters, and one, Branchiocerianthus imperator can be 2 meters tall. At their base hydrozoan polyps have basal disks or elongate processes for attaching to substrate, or they may be attached to other polyps. Often there will also be connections here to hollow tubes (called stolons) that connect the polyp to others in its colony, and allow the exchange of food between polyps. Above the base is a ring of contractile cells called the sphincter. These can contract to isolate the contents of the polyp from the stolons, preventing undigested food from entering the stolons. Above this is the gastric column, which usually contains a digestive chamber with a single opening, a mouth at the apex of the column. A ring of tentacles is attached to the column below the apex and above the sphincter. The number, shape and size of tentacles varies greatly, but there are usually between and 8 and 50 on a single polyp (some have many more, and some specialized polyps may have fewer). Most colonial hydrozoans are polymorphic, with different structures reflecting different functions. Some are armed with large spines tentacles for defense but have no mouth, some have tentacles and functional mouths for feeding, and some are only reproductive, with no tentacles or mouth, and produce medusae (see below) or gametes.

Like all cnidarians, hydrozoans have special ectodermal cells called cnidocytes, each containing a single intracellular structure called a cnida (aka nematocyst). Cnidae are unique to the Cnidaria. Each cnida, when triggered by a mechanical or chemical stimulus, shoots out a tiny hollow tube at high speed. Some cnidae are is equipped with sharp spines, and/or venomous or acidic compounds, but some are adhesive and have neither spines nor toxins. Hydrozoans use different types of cnidae to capture prey, to repel predators, and to attach to substrate.


mm's to 200 cm


Hydrozoans are found in nearly all marine habitats, except perhaps heavy surf zones. They are most abundant and diverse in warm shallow waters, probably as a reflection of food abundance. The small number of freshwater species occur in both lotic and lentic habitats, and are more abundant in eutrophic and mesotrophic waters.


Hydrozoans are found in nearly all marine habitats, except perhaps heavy surf zones. They are most abundant and diverse in warm shallow waters, probably as a reflection of food abundance. The small number of freshwater species occur in both lotic and lentic habitats, and are more abundant in eutrophic and mesotrophic waters.

Data provided by: 
ADW (Animal Diversity Web) / Accessed December 2014

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Cnidaria
Class: Anthozoa
Order: Actiniaria

Common name(s):  Sea anemones

General Details

Sea anemones are a group of water-dwelling, predatory animals of the order Actiniaria. They are named for the anemone, a terrestrial flower.

Anthozoa often have large polyps that allow for digestion of larger prey and also lack a medusa stage.

As cnidarians, sea anemones are related to corals, jellyfish, tube-dwelling anemones, and Hydra.


A sea anemone is a polyp attached at the bottom to the surface beneath it by an adhesive foot, called a basal disc, with a column-shaped body ending in an oral disc. Most are from 1.8 to 3 centimeters (0.71 to 1.2 in) in diameter, but anemones as small as 4 millimeters (0.16 in) or as large as nearly 2 meters (6.6 ft) are known.  They can have anywhere from a few tens to a few hundred tentacles.

A few species are pelagic and are not attached to the bottom; instead they have a gas chamber within the pedal disc, allowing them to float upside down in the water.

The mouth, also the anus of the sea anemone, is in the middle of the oral disc surrounded by tentacles armed with many cnidocytes, which are cells that function as a defense and as a means to capture prey. Cnidocytes contain nematocyst, capsule-like organelles capable of everting, giving phylum Cnidaria its name.  The cnidae that sting are called nematocysts. Each nematocyst contains a small vesicle filled with toxins (actinoporins), an inner filament, and an external sensory hair. A touch to the hair mechanically triggers a cell explosion—which launches a harpoon-like structure that attaches to organisms that trigger it, and injects a dose of venom in the flesh of the aggressor or prey. This gives the anemone its characteristic sticky feeling. The sea anemone eats small fish and shrimp.

The venom is a mix of toxins, including neurotoxins, that paralyzes the prey so the anemone can move it to the mouth for digestion inside the gastrovascular cavity. Actinoporins have been reported as highly toxic to fish and crustaceans, which are the natural prey of sea anemones. Anemonefish (clownfish), small banded fish in various colors, are not affected by their host anemone's sting and shelter themselves from predators among its tentacles.  Most sea anemones do not present a serious risk to humans, but a few highly toxic species have caused severe injuries and are potentially lethal.

The internal anatomy of anemones is quite complex.

Life cycle

Unlike other cnidarians, anemones (and other anthozoans) entirely lack the free-swimming medusa stage of the life cycle; the polyp produces eggs and sperm, and the fertilized egg develops into a planula that develops directly into another polyp.

Anemones tend to stay in the same spot until conditions become unsuitable (prolonged dryness, for example), or a predator attacks them. In that case anemones can release themselves from the substrate and use flexing motions to swim to a new location. Most sea anemones attach temporarily to submerged objects; a few thrust themselves into the sand or live in burrows; a few are parasitic on other marine organisms and some have symbiotic relationships with hermit crabs.

The sexes in sea anemones are separate in some species, while other species, like the brooding anemone (Epiactis prolifera), are protandric hermaphrodites. The gonads are strips of tissue within the mesenteries. Both sexual and asexual reproduction can occur. In sexual reproduction males release sperm to stimulate females to release eggs, and fertilization occurs. Anemones eject eggs and sperm through the mouth. The fertilized egg develops into a planula, which settles and grows into a single polyp.

Anemones can also reproduce asexually, by budding, binary fission (the polyp separates into two halves), and pedal laceration, in which small pieces of the pedal disc break off and regenerate into small anemones

Data provided by: 
Wikipedia / Accessed December 2014

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Porifera

Common name(s):  Sponges

General Details

Sponges are similar to other animals in that they are multicellular, heterotrophic, lack cell walls and produce sperm cells. Unlike other animals, they lack true tissues and organs, and have no body symmetry. The shapes of their bodies are adapted for maximal efficiency of water flow through the central cavity, where it deposits nutrients, and leaves through a hole called the osculum. Many sponges have internal skeletons of spongin and/or spicules of calcium carbonate or silicon dioxide. All sponges are sessile aquatic animals. Although there are freshwater species, the great majority are marine (salt water) species, ranging from tidal zones to depths exceeding 8,800 m (5.5 mi).

While most of the approximately 5,000 - 10,000 known species feed on bacteria and other food particles in the water, some host photosynthesizing micro-organisms as endosymbionts and these alliances often produce more food and oxygen than they consume. A few species of sponge that live in food-poor environments have become carnivores that prey mainly on small crustaceans.

Most species use sexual reproduction, releasing sperm cells into the water to fertilize ova that in some species are released and in others are retained by the "mother". The fertilized eggs form larvae which swim off in search of places to settle. Sponges are known for regenerating from fragments that are broken off, although this only works if the fragments include the right types of cells. A few species reproduce by budding. When conditions deteriorate, for example as temperatures drop, many freshwater species and a few marine ones produce gemmules, "survival pods" of unspecialized cells that remain dormant until conditions improve and then either form completely new sponges or recolonize the skeletons of their parents.

Descriptive Details

Sponges constitute the phylum Porifera, and have been defined as sessile metazoans (multicelled immobile animals) that have water intake and outlet openings connected by chambers lined with choanocytes, cells with whip-like flagella. However, a few carnivorous sponges have lost these water flow systems and the choanocytes. All known living sponges can remold their bodies, as most types of their cells can move within their bodies and a few can change from one type to another.

Like cnidarians (jellyfish, etc.) and ctenophores (comb jellies), and unlike all other known metazoans, sponges' bodies consist of a non-living jelly-like mass sandwiched between two main layers of cells. Cnidarians and ctenophores have simple nervous systems, and their cell layers are bound by internal connections and by being mounted on a basement membrane (thin fibrous mat, also known as "basal lamina"). Sponges have no nervous systems, their middle jelly-like layers have large and varied populations of cells, and some types of cells in their outer layers may move into the middle layer and change their functions.

The few species of demosponge that have entirely soft fibrous skeletons with no hard elements have been used by humans over thousands of years for several purposes, including as padding and as cleaning tools. By the 1950s, though, these had been overfished so heavily that the industry almost collapsed, and most sponge-like materials are now synthetic. Sponges and their microscopic endosymbionts are now being researched as possible sources of medicines for treating a wide range of diseases. Dolphins have been observed using sponges as tools while foraging.


The skeleton of an individual scleractinian polyp is known as a corallite.  It is secreted by the epidermis of the lower part of the body, and initially forms a cup surrounding this part of the polyp. The interior of the cup contains radially aligned plates, or septa, projecting upwards from the base.  Each of these plates is flanked by a pair of thin sheets of living tissue termed mesenteries.

The septa are secreted by the mesenteries, and are therefore added in the same order as the mesenteries are. As a result, septa of different ages are adjacent to one another, and the symmetry of the scleractinian skeleton is radial or biradial. This pattern of septal insertion is termed "cyclic" by paleontologists. By contrast, in some fossil corals, adjacent septa lie in order of increasing age, a pattern that is termed serial and that produces a bilateral symmetry. Scleractinians are also distinguished from the Rugosa by their pattern of septal insertion. They secrete a stony exoskeleton in which the septa are inserted between the mesenteries in multiples of six.

The modern scleractinian skeleton, which lies external to the polyps that make it, is composed of calcium carbonate in the form of aragonite. However, a prehistoric scleractinian (Coelosimilia) had a non-aragonite calcium carbonate skeletal structure. The structure of both simple and compound scleractinians is light and porous, rather than solid as in the Rugosa.

In a colonial Scleractinia, the repeated asexual division of the polyps causes the corallites to be interconnected, thus forming the colonies. There are also cases in which the adjacent colonies of the same species form a single colony by fusing. The living polyps are connected by horizontal sheets of tissue extending over the outer surface of the skeleton and completely covering it. These sheets are outgrowths of the main body of the polyp, and include extensions of the gastrovascular cavity, so that food and water can constantly circulate between all the different members of the colony

» Porifera body structures

» Diagram of a syconoid sponge

Data provided by: 
Wikipedia / Accessed December 2014

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Cnidaria
Class: Anthozoa
Order: Gorgonacea

Common name(s):  Sea fans or Sea whips

General Details

Gorgonacea is an order of sessile colonial cnidarian found throughout the oceans of the world, especially in the tropics and subtropics. Gorgonians are also known as sea whips or sea fans and are similar to the sea pen, a soft coral.

Gorgonians are closely related to, but technically not coral, themselves. Individual tiny polyps form colonies that are normally erect, flattened, branching, and reminiscent of a fan. Others may be whip like, bushy, or even encrusting.  A colony can be several feet high and across but only a few inches thick. They may be brightly colored, often purple, red, or yellow.
Photosynthetic gorgonians can be successfully kept in captive reef aquariums.

Gorgonians are classified in the phylum Cnidaria, class Anthozoa, alongside the orders Alcyonacea (soft corals) and Pennatulacea (sea pens). There are about 500 different species of gorgonians found in the oceans of the world, primarily in the shallow waters of the Atlantic near Florida, Bermuda, and the West Indies.

Descriptive Details

The structure of a gorgonian colony varies. The suborder Holaxonia skeletons are formed from a flexible, horny substance called gorgonian. The suborder Scleraxonia variety of gorgonians are supported by a skeleton of tightly grouped calcareous spicules. There are also species which encrust like coral.  Most of holaxonia and sclerazonia, however, do not attach themselves to a hard substrate. Instead, they anchor themselves in mud or sand.

Research has shown that measurements of the gorgonin and calcite within several long-lived species of gorgonians can be useful in paleoclimatology and paleoceanography, as the skeletal growth rate and composition of these species is highly correlated with seasonal and climatic variation.


Each gorgonian polyp has eight tentacles which catch plankton and particulate matter that is consumed. This process, called filter feeding, is facilitated when the "fan" is oriented across the prevailing current to maximize water flow to the gorgonian and hence food supply.

Some gorgonians contain algae, or zooxanthellae. This symbiotic relationship assists in giving the gorgonian nutrition via photosynthesis. Gorgonians possessing zooxanthellae are usually characterized by brownish polyps. Those without zooxanthellae usually have more brightly colored polyps. Lacking this additional nutrition, they are more dependent on the nutrition they derive from filter feeding.


Gorgonians are found primarily in shallow waters, though some have been found at depths of several thousand feet.  The size, shape, and appearance of the gorgonians are highly correlated with their location. The more fan-shaped and flexible gorgonians tend to populate shallower areas with strong currents, while the taller, thinner, and stiffer gorgonians can be found in deeper, calmer waters.

Data provided by: 
Wikipedia / Accessed December 2014

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Cnidaria
Class: Anthozoa
Order: Corallimorpharia

Common name(s):  Corallimorphs or False corals

General Details

Corallimorphs come from the same class (Anthozoa) as due hard corals, soft corals, sea anemones and sea fans. Corallimorph's often have a similar appearance to sea anemones due to their always short tenticles, while their body format looks more similar to hard corals, they differ in that they do not posses a stony skeleton

Corallimorphs usually have two types of tentacles: one type found on the edge of the oral disk and another kind on the surface of the oral disk. Their tentacles are usually short, some so short that the tentacles are merely bumps.

Corallimorphs also have stingers like other Cnidarians. Some large corallimorphs can reach 30cm across or more and can eat fish! These fishes are trapped in the muscular oral disc, similar to the way a Venus Flytrap plant catches its prey. One specie (Paracorynactis hoplites) preys on the crown-of-thorns starfish.

Corallimorphs also produce toxins that seem to injure or kill hard corals or other encrusting organisms that settle near them.

Corallimorphs are distinguished by an upturned mouth in the center of the oral disk. Most other sea anemones and corals have inward turning mouths.

Corallimorphs also have a narrow body column, although this is usually hidden by the broad oral disk. The body column is usually buried in the ground or attached to a surface. Some corallimorphs tuck their oral disk into their body columns when they are exposed out of water, so they look like blobs.

Corallimorpharians occur in a wide range of marine habitats, and are associated with phase shifts in coral reef ecosystems that result in a change from a hard-coral dominated reef to a soft-coral dominated one.

Data provided by: 
Wikipedia / Accessed December 2014

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Porifera
Class: Crinoidea

Common name(s):  Feather stars, Crinoids or Sea lillies.

General Details

Crinoids are marine animals that live both in shallow water and in depths as great as 6,000 meters (20,000 ft). Sea lilies refer to the crinoids which, in their adult form, are attached to the sea bottom by a stalk. Feather stars refer to the unstalked forms.

Crinoids are characterized by a mouth on the top surface that is surrounded by feeding arms. They have a U-shaped gut, and their anus is located next to the mouth. Although the basic echinoderm pattern of fivefold symmetry can be recognized, most crinoids have many more than five arms. Crinoids usually have a stem used to attach themselves to a substrate, but many live attached only as juveniles and become free-swimming as adults.

There are only about 600 extant crinoid species, but they were much more abundant and diverse in the past. Some thick limestone beds dating to the mid to late Paleozoic are almost entirely made up of disarticulated crinoid fragments.

Descriptive Details

Crinoids comprise three basic sections; the stem, the calyx, and the arms. The stem is composed of highly porous ossicles which are connected by ligamentary tissue. The calyx contains the crinoid's digestive and reproductive organs, and the mouth is located at the top of the dorsal cup, while the anus is located peripheral to it. The arms display pentamerism or pentaradial symmetry and comprise smaller ossicles than the stem and are equipped with cilia which facilitate feeding by moving the organic media down the arm and into the mouth.

The majority of living crinoids are free-swimming and have only a vestigial stalk. In those deep-sea species that still retain a stalk, it may reach up to 1 meter (3.3 ft) in length, although it is usually much smaller. The stalk grows out of the aboral surface, which forms the upper side of the animal in starfish and sea urchins, so that crinoids are effectively upside-down by comparison with most other echinoderms. The base of the stalk consists of a disc-like sucker, which, in some species, has root-like structures that further increase its grip on the underlying surface. The stalk is often lined by small cirri.

Primitively, crinoids had only five arms, but in most living species these are divided into two, giving ten arms in total. In most living species, especially the free-swimming feather stars, the arms branch several times, producing up to two hundred branches in total. The arms are jointed, and lined by smaller feather-like appendages, or pinnules, which also include tube feet.

Data provided by: 
Wikipedia / Accessed December 2014

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Cnidaria
Class: Anthozoa
Order: Ascidiacea

Common name(s):  Ascidians or Sea squirts

General Details

Ascidians are characterized by a tough outer "tunic" made of the polysaccharide tunicin, as compared to other tunicates which are less rigid.

Ascidians are found all over the world, usually in shallow water with salinities over 2.5%. While members of the Thaliacea and Larvacea swim freely like plankton, sea squirts are sessile animals: they remain firmly attached to substratum, such as rocks and shells.

There are 2,300 species of ascidians and three main types: solitary ascidians, social ascidians that form clumped communities by attaching at their bases, and compound ascidians that consist of many small individuals (each individual is called a zooid) forming colonies up to several meters in diameter.

Descriptive Details

Sea squirts are rounded or cylindrical animals ranging from about 0.5 to 10 centimeters (0.20 to 3.94 in) in size. One end of the body is always firmly fixed to rock, coral, or some similar solid surface. The lower surface is pitted or ridged, and in some species has root-like extensions that help the animal grip onto the surface. The body wall is covered by a smooth thick tunic, which is often quite rigid. The tunic consists of a cellulose-like substance called tunicin along with proteins and calcium salts. Unlike the shells of molluscs, the tunic is composed of living tissue, and often has its own blood supply. In some colonial species, the tunics of adjacent individuals are fused into a single structure.

The upper surface of the animal, opposite to the part gripping the substratum, has two openings, or siphons. When removed from the water, the animal often violently expels water from these siphons, hence the common name of "sea squirt". The body itself can be divided into up to three regions, although these are not clearly distinct in most species. The pharyngeal region contains the pharynx, while the abdomen contains most of the other bodily organs, and the postabdomen contains the heart and gonads. In many sea squirts, the postabdomen, or even the entire abdomen, are absent, with their respective organs being located more anteriorly.

As its name implies, the pharyngeal region is occupied mainly by the pharynx. The large buccal siphon opens into the pharynx, acting like a mouth. The pharynx itself is ciliated and contains numerous perforations, or stigmata, arranged in a grid-like pattern around its circumference. The beating of the cilia sucks water through the siphon, and then through the stigmata. A long ciliated groove, or endostyle, runs along one side of the pharynx, and a projecting ridge along the other. The endostyle may be homologous with the thyroid gland of vertebrates, despite its differing function.

The pharynx is surrounded by an atrium, through which water is expelled through a second, usually smaller, siphon. Cords of connective tissue cross the atrium to maintain the general shape of the body. The outer body wall consists of connective tissue, muscle fibers, and a simple epithelium directly underlying the tunic.

Circulatory system

The heart is a curved muscular tube lying in the postabdomen, or close to the stomach. Each end opens into a single vessel, one running to the endostyle, and the other to the dorsal surface of the pharynx. The vessels are connected by a series of sinuses, through which the blood flows. Additional sinuses run from that on the dorsal surface, supplying blood to the visceral organs, and smaller vessels commonly run from both sides into the tunic. Nitrogenous waste, in the form of ammonia, is excreted directly from the blood through the walls of the pharynx, and expelled through the atrial siphon.

Unusually, the heart of sea squirts alternates the direction in which it pumps blood every three to four minutes. There are two excitatory areas, one at each end of the heart, with first one being dominant, to push the blood through the ventral vessel, and then the other, pushing it dorsally.

Colonial species

Colonial ascidians reproduce both asexually and sexually. Colonies can survive for decades. An ascidian colony consists of individual elements called zooids. Zooids within a colony are usually genetically identical and some have a shared circulation.

Data provided by: 
Wikipedia | Accessed December 2014

Identifying a specie can be easy, or nearly impossible to identify with the naked eye. Soft corals are notoriously difficult and all need to be very cautious, and avoid using assumptions when ID'ing a specie. Here are a few species to educate and show you the potential difficulty.

Corallite example: Genus Favia

Corallite example: Genus Pocillopora

  • Corallites are the flat round structures located on the verrucae
  • Verrucae are the lumpy lobes where the corallites are located

Corallite example: Genus Acropora

Corallite example: Genus Mussa

Ridges and valleys example

  • Note that width of the valley is a common measurement tool used to ID different meandroid species

Types of branching

  • Types of branching is to describe colonies that have secondary branches, meaning branches that come off the first branch. Forms that don’t have secondary branches are grouped within the terms of Corallite colony arrangements


  • Colonies with corallites that have their own distinctive walls


  • Colonies with corallites of uniform height and adjoined towards their base


  • Colonies with corallites sharing common walls


  • Spreading branches of single corallites


  • Colonies with corallite mouths aligned in valleys

Thamnasteroid (SeptaCostae)

  • Corallites with confluent septa and lacking defined boundaries
Both of the above examples are septacostae species.


  • Colonies with valleys that have completely separate walls
  • Valleys have several mouths
  • Seen in Catalaphyllia, Euphyllia, and Lobophyllia

Inclined corallites

  • Corallites that grows at an angle (facing the outer margin) from the colony base

Exsert corallites and Immersed corallites

  • Corallites that extend outward, or are raised from the colony surface are considered Exsert corallites
  • Corallites that form depressions inward, or are equal to or lower than the colony surface are considered immersed corallites
Exsert Corallite Immersed corallites

Tabulate (Table & plate)

Cup shaped (soft coral)


Finger like corals that extend vertically from a flat base


Finger like corals that extend nearly vertically from a common, smaller base







Foliaceous (cup shaped)

Foliaceous (whorl shaped)

Branching (caespitose)

Free living (solitary)

Aborescent (staghorn)

Aborescent (elkhorn)


Identifying a specie can be easy, or nearly impossible to identify with the naked eye. Soft corals are notoriously difficult and all need to be very cautious, and avoid using assumptions when ID'ing a specie. Here are a couple of examples to demonstrate, a least a portion, of the process and illustrate to you the potential difficulty.

I plan to update this section with each new version

Genus Dendronephthya

This is a very complex genus to ID as nearly all ID's require a macro shot of the poly area, or a microscope.

I have added one ID I believe to be accurate based on the description of the original document.

The below information is based on the original description, found here.

There are 3 "types" of Dendronephthya; Glomerate, Divaricate and Umbellate as described below by the original description.

"Kükenthal has divided this difficult genus into three main groups: (I) Glomerate; (II) Divaricate; (III) Umbellate, giving precision to similar suggestions by previous workers such as Holm.

  1. The Glomerate are characterized by:
    1. the comparatively slight branching of the polyparium;
    2. the grouping of numerous bundles of polyps into roundish bunches which make the surface of the polyparium entirely irregular.
    3. There is a marked definiteness about the Glomerate division which suggests "naturalness" and makes it easy to refer to a species to the group. Text-fig. 1 is a diagrammatic illustration of what is meant by the Glomerate habit of growth.

  2. The Divaricate are characterized by:
    1. the profuse branching of the polyparium;
    2. the length and slenderness of the twigs;
    3. the divergent separateness of the polyp bundles;
    4. the absence of anything that can be called bunches of the Glomerate type or umbels of the Umbellate type.

    It should be noted that a Divaricate polyparium may have a continuous contour like that of a well-pruned tree (see diagram).

  3. The Umbellate are characterized by:
    1. the umbel like or sometimes corymb like aggregates formed by the terminal twigs, the heads of the umbels being bundles of polyps;
    2. the disposition of all or most of the polyp heads on the surface of the colony."

Identifying which is a Glomerate, Divaricate or Umbellate form is relatively simple. However, if one goes deeper into a single form, it will prove to be very difficult.

Here is an example of a specie I am reasonably certain is accurate, thanks to a great photo provided by Cornelis Opstal, via

The Diagnosis of Dendronephthya suensoni, found on page 52 is as follows:
"Divaricate; outline irregular; not obviously flattened; polyps in little groups (4 - 10 ), distinctly scattered; polyps stalks medium; supporting bundle medium; point spicules one pair only, of which one member is a long projecting curved spindle associated with a much smaller one at its base; crown of some 6 rows of horizontally disposed spindles; grade VI; spicules: canal-walls show numerous forms with greatly developed thorns; colour: cortex and polyps have deep red spicules, polyps grey-yellow."

Genus Pocillopora

This genus is a bit easier to identify and an exact specie can be determined with a high quality photograph.

Below are 3 examples from the western & central Indian ocean.

Pocillopora meandrina

P. meandrina has the following characteristics:

  • Verrucae do not integrate with branches
  • Colony consist of upright branches
  • Colony consist of short, compact branches
  • Verrucae are neat, uniform on branch and consistent in size

Pocillopora verrucosa

P. verrucosa has the following characteristics:

  • Verrucae do not integrate with branches
  • Colony consist of upright branches
  • Colony consist of short, compact branches
  • Verrucae are irregular in size and not uniform on branch

Pocillopora grandis

P. grandis has the following characteristics:

  • Verrucae do not integrate with branches
  • Colony consist of upright branches
  • Colony consist of elongated stout, upright and flattened branches
  • Verrucae are large and uniform on branch

Genus Acropora

This genus Acropora is a very diverse genus with many different forms. While most have a recognizable, research concerning the corallite structure will be required

Below are 3 examples from the western & central Indian ocean.

Acropora donei

P. verrucosa has the following characteristics:

  • colony with axial corallites
  • colony with branches dominant
  • radial corallites exsert branches large
  • branches middle-sized
  • branches becoming prostrate
  • radial corallites not obviously rasp-like
  • branch ends not conspicuously upturned
  • branches straight

» The basic difference between hard corals and soft corals:

Hard corals, also called stony corals, produce a rock-like skeleton made of calcium carbonate (same material as classroom chalk).   While soft corals do not build a hard skeleton, like hard corals, they do produce small amounts of calcium carbonate to help them keep their shape. 
Soft corals can be distinguished from hard corals by the fact that soft coral polyps always have eight tentacles, while hard coral polyps have multiples of six tentacles

» Did you know:

The Fire coral we all love to avoid is actually a Hydroid, not a coral?

» Did you know:

Fire corals are actually related closer to Jellyfish than there they do to hard and soft corals?

» Did you know:

The Caribbean island of Barbados was once a coral reef?

» Did you know:

The Great Barrier Reef is the only natural structure that you can see from space?

» Did you know:

If you cut yourself on coral and you don't clean it, that coral could grow inside your skin?

» Did you know:

Algae is the natural glue that holds corals together to maintain their shape?

» Did you know:

Corals in colonies are known to live from 5 years to several hundred years?

» Did you know:

Some coral reefs are so small that you can't even see them?

» Did you know:

The Pacific coral reefs contain more species of fishes, plants and corals than Caribbean coral reefs do?

» Did you know:

The coral reef structure also buffers shorelines against waves, storms, and floods, helping to prevent loss of life, property damage, and erosion?

» Did you know:

Coral reef plants and animals are important sources of new medicines being developed to treat cancer, arthritis, human bacterial infections, heart disease, viruses, and other diseases?

» Did you know:

Coral reefs are found in 109 countries; significant reef degradation has occurred in 93?

» Did you know:

We have already lost 27% of the world's coral reefs? If present rates of destruction are allowed to continue, 60% of the world's coral reefs will be destroyed over the next 30 years?

» Did you know:

More than 80% of the world's shallow reefs are severely over-fished?

» Notice to divers:

As divers, we have the closest relationship with this beautiful under water world.
We are the first group that should be stepping up to really help the situation.

Stay tuned for more "did you know..." with future app updates

Octopuses, not Octopi
The world "octopus" comes from the Greek, októpus, meaning "eight foot." The word’s Greek roots means it’s pluralized as a Greek word, too, which depends on both a noun’s gender and the last letter it ends with. In this case, an -es is simply tacked on.

Short lived
Male octopus will die few months after mating. Female will survive until her eggs hatch. She will die of starvation, because she will not eat three months (time needed for eggs to hatch). Average life span is 3 to 5 years, with the shorted being several months.

My childhood friend was a plankton
Female lay up to 150 000 eggs in a week. After hatching, smacll octopuses will float short period of time with plankton and then swim back to the bottom of the sea.

Biggest and smallest
The smallest goes to the Octopus Wolfi, which is half an inch long and weighs 1 gram. The longest armspan of any octopus on record is of the Enteroctopus dofleini, or Giant Pacific octopus, which measured a whopping 9 meters long!

3 hearts
Two of their hearts pumps blood through each of the two gills, while the third heart pumps blood through the body.

Yes, every octopus is venomous, but only the Blue ring octopus is potent enough to kill a human. If fact, if bitten, humans would be paralized within minutes.

Eyes R Us
Octopuses have horizontal shaped eyes that can rotate. As a result, regardless of the position of the octpus, their eyes will always be horizontal. They are nearsighted and can’t see much past 8 feet, they do not have a blind spot

Einstein of the invetebrates
Only mammals and birds have more complex brains than that of the octopus. Octopuses have excellent memories, have played with objects, unscrewed jars to get to the crab inside. Their brain has folds, another indication of complexity. They can be left-eyed or right-eyed like in humans with their hand preferences.

Dumbo Octopus
Dumbo octopus is a type of octopus named after Walt Disney's famous character Dumbo the elephant because of the ear-like fins. There are around 37 different species of dumbo octopi. These interesting animals can be found in all oceans of the world. They are rarely seen because they are living on the bottom of the sea on a depth ranging from 1 300 to 23 000 feet. Dumbo octopus has soft, head-shaped body with 8 arms. They are connected with each other via thin flaps of the skin. Two ear-like fins are positioned on both sides of the "head" which is used to propell themselves.

No skeletons in the closet
With no internal or external skeleton, octopuses are able to squeeze into (and out of) tight places to escape their predators. Their only limitation is the size of their beak, which is the only hard object of an octopus.

Shape shifters
We are all aware that Octopuses can change their color and skin texture to match thier surroundings, but the mimic octopus goes one step further. They can actually alter the shape of their body to mimic another specie.

Blue blood
No, not the TV show, but octopuses really do have blue blood.

More than just a sucker
The 1,600 suction cups found in the arms are not just tactile organs, but can also smell.

As octopuses have been on earth for about 286 million years, and as stated above, the average lifespan is only 3-5 years, this fact limits their ability to collect information. As a result, some scientists believe that if octopuses were able to live longer, they would have become the dominant intelligence on Earth.

Odd cousins
Nudibranches are Gastropods in the Phylum Mollusca, that same phylum that has Octopuses, cuttlefish as well as clams and bivalves.

Not for the weak at mind
All nudibranches are sea slugs, but not all sea slugs are nudibranches.

Both Latin and Greek
The word nudibranch comes from the Latin word nudus (naked) and Greek brankhia (gills), in reference to the gills or gill-like appendages obviously sticking out from the backs of many nudibranches.

Huge family
There are over 3,000 species of nudibranches.

Two of a kind
There are two main types of nudibranches and they are aeolid (below left) nudibranches and dorid (below center) nudibranches. Dorid nudibranches breathe through gills that are on their posterior (back) end. Aeolid nudibranches have cerata - finger-like appendages that cover their back.

You look like what you eat
Sea slugs eat colorful food, which gives them their brilliant color. In fact, some sea slugs ingest the venom from the species they eat and utilize this for their own defence. Glaucus atlanticus (above right) eats Portuguese man-of-wars and stores their venom for its own use, and touching them can result in a sting.

Male and Female
Nudibranches (and remaining sea slugs) are hermaphrodites, meaning they have reproductive organs of both sexes. Since they can't move too far, too fast, and are solitary in nature, it's important for them to be able to reproduce if the situation presents itself. Having both sexes means that they can mate with any adult that happens to pass by.

Short life
Nudibranches have a very short life cycle. Some may live up to a year, but there are some that would lucky to get past a few weeks.

Located at the opposite end of a shell from the apex.

Reducing the degree or intensity of, or eliminating

Abductor muscle scar
The area or depression on the inside of a bivalve shell where the foot muscle was attached.

The knobbed tentacle tip of an anthozoan, usually bearing numerous nematocysts

A member of the suborder aeolidacea, nudibranches having cerata containing branches of the digestive gland

Resembling an aeolid in body plan.

Air bladder
A gas filled sac used for floatation in the portuguese man o war and some gastropods. also called a pneumatophore.

A soft coral of the order alcyonacea, class anthozoa

Unicellular, multicellular, solitary, or colonial organisms that contain chlorophyll. they lack roots, stems, leaves, flowers, and seeds. algae are in the kingdom protista

Algal bloom
A sudden spurt of algal growth that can indicate potentially hazardous changes in local water chemistry

Algal reef
A reef, usually exposed to wave action, composed of coralline algae and vermatid gastropods. the coralline algae occur in forms of cups or funnels

Allopatric species
Species that do not have overlapping ranges

Branches have re-fused during growth

Annulate rhinophores
Rhinophores with well defined circular ridges or collars

Toward the front of the animal; opposite of posterior.

The main opening in a gastropod shell where the foot and head extrude.

The part of gastropod shell that was formed first, typically pointed, at the posterior end of the shell.

Toward the tip of a shell or other structure

Apical orifice
An opening at the apex of a structure

Coloration that stands out in contrast to its background, presumably acts as a warning to predators

Tree -like in form

Arc -like in shape

Arms (of a cephalopod)
Shorter, thicker (as opposed to tentacles), fleshy extensions hanging beneath the head of the cephalopod. usually has suckers most of its length.

A ring-shaped coral reef including a coral rim that encircles a lagoon partially or completely, usually atop a volcano.

To drop body parts when disturbed, presumably as a distraction to predators

Being located at the tip of a branch

Axial (gastropods)
Running longitudinally across the whorls in gastropods.

Axial corallite
An individual corallite located at the tip of a branch

Lacking the symbiotic algae, zooxanthellae

Basal disk
The base of a sea anemone that attaches to the substrate.

Batesian mimicry
When a palatable species closely resembles an unpalatable species

In bivalves, the pointed or rounded end of the shell in the hinge area. also called apex or umbo. in cephalopods, the pair of curved sharp teeth at the opening of the mouth.

The gelatinous, radially symmetrical covering of a jellyfish. the mouth is on the underside of the bell.

Refers to organisms that live on or in the ocean bed. benthic epifauna are organisms that live on the ocean floor or upon bottom objects sch as sea anemones and barnacles, whereas benthic infauna are organisms that live within the surface sediments such as clams and worms.

Bifid rhinophores
Rhinophores that divide into two branches

Splitting into two branches or tips.

Having two lips or edges

Having two series of branches

A mollusk that is surrounded by 2 hinged shells. includes clams, oysters, and mussels.

Body whorl
The lowest and largest whorl of a gastropod shell

Branchial lamellae
Folds of the gills in nudibranches.

The upper surface, or the opening of a corralite bounded by the wall

Calumella (plural calumellae)
Skeletal structures at the axis of corallites

Calyx (pl. calyces)
The depression or extension in a coral skeleton that houses the polyp.

The elevated crest between the rhinophores in some arminids

Tubercles surrounded by spicules that are found on the dorsal surfaces of some dorids

A marine mollusk having bilateral symmetry, a well developed head and eyes, having arms and tentacles. includes octopuses, squids, cuttlefishes and the nautilus.

Ceras (pl cerata)
Dorsal and lateral outgrowths on the upper surfaces of the body of nudibranches.

Ceras (plural cerata)
An elongate projection from the dorsal surfaces of aeolids, dendronotids, arminaceans and sacoglossans, sometimes applied only to those of aeolids

Ceratal group
A cluster of cerata

Ceratal insertion
The point at which cerata attach to the animal

Polyps that share common walls

Photosynthetic organelles in the cells of alga and other plants that contain the pigment chlorophyll

Choanocytes (also known as "collar cells") are cells that line the interior of asconoid, syconoid and leuconoid body type sponges.

Minute hair-like structures that can move rhythmically and are used for locomotion or moving fluids and particles along a structure.

Having a global distribution in tropical waters

The club-shaped tip of a rhinophore

A sack in the tip of a ceras that contains nematocysts extracted by aeolids from their food

A short, stout, erect cylindrical calicle, with a broad apex and the upper side partly wanting

The common tissue that connects colonial polyps.

Skeletal material between the walls of the corallites of a coral.

Skeletal ridges composed of coenosteum which separate corallites

The inner margin of the aperture in a gastropod shell

Columella - coral
The central part of the calyx of a coral skeleton where the lower elements of the septa fuse.

Columella - mollusk
The central pillar of a gastropod shell around which the whorls form. it is partially or totally hidden inside the shell.

Skeletal structures at the center of corallites

Relating to the columella

An animal that lives in close association with another species without harming its host

Curving inward.

Curving outward.

Coral bleaching
When the relationship between the coral host and zooxanthallae, which give coral much of their colour, breaks down. causes include:
- stress caused by a sustained increase water temperature (even as low as 1 degree) for a period of 4 weeks or more. (most common)
- fresh water inundation (low salinity)
- poor water quality from sediment or pollution

The skeleton of an individual polyp

Corallum (pl. coralla)
The entire coral skeleton.

Corralum (plural corolla)
The skeleton of a colony

Corralum (plural: corolla)
The skeleton of a colony

Having a global distribution in tropical and temperate waters

Costa (pl. costae) - coral
Radial skeletal elements outside the corallite wall

Costa (pl. costae) - mollusk
Tubular or circular ridge on the surface of a shell.

Costa (plural: costae)
Radial skeletal elements outside the corallite wall

Costae (singular costa)
Radial skeletal elements outside the corallite wall

Costae (singular: costa)
Radial skeletal elements outside the corallite wall

Having a round-tooth or scalloped edge.

Having margins that are scalloped, indented, wrinkled or notched.

Crustaceans form a very large group of arthropods, which includes such familiar animals as crabs, lobsters, crayfish, shrimp, krill and barnacles.

A species that is difficult to see against it's usual background

Dorids that can fully withdraw their gills (or that have evolved from such species)

Photosynthetic bacteria, also known as blue-green algae

Right -handed. in gastropods, when the whorls wind clockwise.

Digestive gland
The primary organ responsible for digestion in opisthobranchs, often highly elaborate

Resembling fingers

A tublular calicle bisected vertically nearly to its base

The portion of a structure furthest from the center of the body

A member of the suborder doridacea

Resembling a dorid in body plan

Referring to the upper surface of an animal; opposite of ventral.

The upper surface of an animal

A species found only in the region under discussion

An endostyle is a longitudinal groove on the ventral wall which produces mucus to gather food particles.

An endosymbiont is any organism that lives within the body or cells of another organism.

The excretory system is a passive biological system that removes excess and unnecessary materials.

Projecting above the surrounding structure

Extra-branchial appendage
A projection from the body located near the branchia in some dorids

Extra-rhinophoral appendage
A projection from the body located near the rhinophores in some dorids

Extra-tentacular budding
Polyp duplication where daughter polyps form on the side of a parent polyp.

Valleys elongate with separate walls

The muscular part of a mollusk's body used for crawling.

Foot corners
The anterior corners of the foot

Frontal veil
The expanded anterior portion of the head in many dendronotids

A mollusk typically having a single, coiled shell (cap-shaped in limpets, absent in nudibranches), a flattened muscular foot used for locomotion, and eyes and tentacles on a distinct head. includes snails, whelks, limpets and slugs.

A net set upright in the water to catch fish by entangling their gills in its mesh.

The internal pen (hard structure) of a squid.

Shaped with an appearance similar to a dome

Being both male and female

With symbiotic algae present in the polyp tissue

Organisms that spend there entire life cycle in the plankton

Intra-tentacular budding
Polyp duplication where the polyp divides into two or more polyps

Long -lipped, or in shape nearly like the blade of a shovel, the upper side of the calicle being entirely wanting, and the lower thin and nearly flat.

Lamella (pl. lamellae)
A thin plate or fold of hard or soft tissue.

Lamella (plural lamellae)
A leaf-like fold

Lamellate rhinophores
Rhinophores having leaf-like folds

Need definition

A colony shape where all dimensions are approximately the same.

Polyps that form valleys

Pertaining to the center

The mesohyl is the gelatinous matrix within a sponge.

When one species resembles another, presumably gaining some selective advantage

A taxon that contains only one species

Mullerian mimicry
When two unpalatable species resemble each other

A compressed calicle, resembling in shape to an inverted nose

A stinging cell produced by cnidarians (jellyfish, sea anemones, fire coral, etc)

Having to do with names

The upper surface of an animal

Angled, either upward or downward, usually refers to mouths, stripes or lines.

A member of the cnidarian subclass octocorallia, one of the groups known as "soft corals"

Oral arms
Soft, sometimes convoluted, structures that hang beneath the bell of a jellyfish that are used to pass food to the mouth.

Oral cavity
Mouth .

Oral disk
The membranous disk that contains the mouth in sea anemones.

Oral hood
The expanded "net" used by the genus melibe to catch food

Oral veil
The expanded front of the head in many dendronotids

The osculum is an excretory structure in the living sponge, a large opening to the outside through which the current of water exits after passing through the spongocoel.

Outer slope
A slope that is steeper anc can be exposed to strong hydrodynamic forces.

Paliform lobe
Upright skeletal rods or plates at the inner margin of septa formed by upward growth of septum

Palmate cerata
Cerata resembling an open hand

Papilla (plural papillae)
A small, finger-like projection or bump

Finger -like projections of reticulum with a diameter less than or equal to the corallites. papillae may encircle the corallites or may be scattered independently of the corallites.

Papillate rhinophores
Rhinophores having papillae

Pedalia (sing. pedalium)
Gelatinous, muscular extensions of the bell of some jellyfish.

Refers to the plants and animals that live in the water column or in the open waters of the ocean rather than the ocean floor (see benthic).

Septa with a flower-like appearance

Polyps that are extremely prominent

Dorids that cannot fully retract their gills

Photosynthesis is a process used by plants and other organisms to convert light energy, normally from the sun.

Pinacocytes are flat cells found on the outermost layer of a sponge (phylum porifera).

Pelagic organisms that float through the water column, not attached to any substrate and unable to move against the currents and tides. plankton can be further divided into phytoplankton and zooplankton, meroplankton and holoplankton.

Drifting passively in the open ocean

Pigment containing organelles in the cells of algae and other plants

A member of the order pleurobranchomorpha (formerly included tylodinoidea)

Polyps that have separate walls

An individual organism, usually cylindrical in shape with an oral end surrounded by tentacles and a base for attachment. when in colonies, each polyp usually serves only one function, such as digestion or reproduction.

Pertaining to the rear of the body; opposite of anterior.

Nearest the center of the body or point of attachment to body.

Covered with small pits or depressions

The stem or main shaft of a structure.

Being located around the perimeter of a branch along its length extending out from a common point

Reef pediment
A gentle slop in front of the reef, descending to depths of 30 to 50 m.

The coenosteum and associated structures of montipora. essentially represents the structure of the colony surface.

Rhinophore shaft
The stalk or "trunk" of a rhinophore

Rhinophore sheath
The collar or cup surrounding the base of a rhinophore

A pair of tentacles, on the head of nudibranches, which contain scent or taste receptors.

Rolled rhinophores
Flattened rhinophores that have inrolled margins forming a tube

A circular cluster of branches or projections

A stiff, upright structure on some hydroids that is used to catch the wind to enable movement.

A member of the cnidarian order scleractinia, most species referred to as "hard corals"

A skeletal element in soft corals, composed of calcium spicules.

Sea hare
A member of the order notaspidea

Sea slug
A member of the subclass opisthobranchia, particularly those that lack shells

Radial elements of corallites situated inside the corallite wall

Radial elements of corallites that are continuous between corallites

Septum (pl. septa) - coral
Skeletal radiating plates inside the calyx of a coral.

Septum (plural septa)
Skeletal elements projecting inwards from the corallite wall

Side-gilled slug
A member of the order pleurobranchomorpha (formerly included tylodinoidea)

Simple rhinophores
Rhinophores that lack any obvious ridges, lamellae or other "decorations"

A tubular structure for bringing in or expelling fluids.

Siphonal canal
A channeled extension from which the siphon extends.

Siphonal notch
A notch at the base of the siphonal canal in gastropods.

A a tiny, reinforcing structure formed by sponges and some opisthobranchs (among others)
- minute hard pointed projections.

The coiling whorls above the aperture of a gastropod.

In bryozoans, branch-like extensions (not considered "true" branches as in plants).

Stria (plural striae)
A fine line or ridge

Stromboid notch
A notch or indentation in the lower outer lip of conch gastropods, used to extend 1 of its stalked eyes out of the shell.

Immediately below the apex of a structure

Located bellow the edge or margin of a structure such as a parapodium

Growth that is mostly in two dimensions (encrusting) but with distinct bumps or mounds growing from the surface.

Immediately below the end of a structure

The place where two structures join, particularly two whorls of a gastropod shell

An animal that lives in close association with another animal

A pair of animals that lives in close association with one another

Horizontal rods between septa

Taxon (plural taxa)
A group used in the classification of organisms such as genus, family, order, class, etc.

The theory and practice of describing, naming and classifying plants and animals.

A long projection, usually sensory in function

Tentacle (cephalopods)
In cephalopods, an elongated arm use to capture prey (usually with suckers on the distal ends). tentacles contain the stinging cells.

Tentacle (gastropods)
An elongated projection of the body.

Tentacle (jellyfishes)
One of several narrow elongated string-like processes projecting from the lower surface of the bell. tentacles contain the stinging cells.

Tentacle (sea anemones)
One of many motile and retractable arms surrounding the oral cavity. tentacles contain the stinging cells.

The wall of a corallite of a coral.

Branching in three cycles from the central axis

Large papillae and may be much larger the diameter of the corallite.

A calcified and hard protuberance projection, or lump, usually larger than a papilla

Reticulum structures that are bigger than the corallites of montipora.

Cylindrical in shape

A sunken or depressed area at the base of a gastropod.

Varix (pl. varices)
Longitudinal thickened ridge found in some gastropods.

The larvae of gastropod mollusks

A ciliated structure in gastropod larvae used for swimming

Pertaining to the lower side; opposite of dorsal.

Wart -like growths found on species of pocillopora.

Verrucose rhinophores
Rhinophores having irregular wrinkles

Covered with small, hair-like projections

Wall (theca)
The skeleton enclosing a calice

Wall reticulum
Number of rings of vertical rods (trabeculae) forming the wall between corallites

One "turn" of the spiral in a gastropod shell

An individual polyp in a colony, as in bryozoans

Animal component of the plankton that feed on phytoplankton and other zooplankton

The symbiotic algae that live within the bodies of cnidarians, mollusks, etc.

Below are some anatomy charts to assist you with learning about shark.

Basic anatomy

Below are some anatomy charts, as well as fin type descriptions to assist you with learning about various fish species.

Below are some drawing to assist with learning about Sea Turtles

Head details and description

Post-orbital and Pre-frontal scales drawing

PF Prefrontal scales:
Usually 1 or 2 pairs (except Loggerhead which has an interpre-frontal scale; Leatherback no scales) of horny scales covering the anterior inter-orbital area (characteristic at generic level).

PO Post-orbital scales:
Horny scales (3 or 4, except Leatherback with no scales) covering the sides of the head behind the orbits. Note: occasionally, there may be small abnormal scales that will make the PO identification difficult.

MeS Mentonian scute:
Scute under the tip of the lower tomium.

To Tomium:
The horny beak that covers the alveolar surface of the mandibles.

Rh Rhampoteca:
The cutting edge within the Tomium. Will be either serrated or smooth.

Na Nares:
Nares are at the front of the upper beak. Common name for nares are nostrils.

Carapace details and description

NS Nuchal scutes (precentral scute, cervical, prevertebral):
Foremost central scute of the carapace.

S Marginal scutes:
Scutes covering the peripheral bones of the carapace, forming a hard edge all around it. Visible from both top (carapace) and bottom (plastron).

LS Lateral scutes (costal or pleural):
The most lateral scutes covering the carapace on both sides, between the central and marginal scutes.

VS Vertebral scutes (Central): The central most scutes that separate the two pairs of lateral scutes.
PS Supracaudal scutes (pigal, postcentral or suprapigal):
Rearmost pair of marginal scutes of the carapace.

Plastron details and description

AS Axillary scutes:Variable number of scutes between the marginal, humeral and pectoral scutes, located posterior to the axillary notch.

IM Inframarginal scutes:
Scutes covering the bridge bones, between the ventral side of the marginal scutes and the central scutes of the plastron.

IG Intergular scute:
Middle, foremost plastron scute or scutes between the pair of gular scutes (sometimes absent).

MS Marginal scutes:
Scutes covering the peripheral bones of the carapace, forming a hard edge all around it. Visible from both top (carapace) and bottom (plastron).

G Gular scutes:
Foremost paired scutes of the plastron.

H Humeral scutes:
Anterior paired scutes of the plastron, between the gular, pectoral and axillary scutes.

P Pectoral scutes:
Median pair of scutes in contact with the humeral, inframarginal and abdominal scutes of the plastron.

A Abdominal scutes:
Pair of plastral scutes in nearly central position; they are in contact with the pectoral, femoral and inframarginal scutes.

F Femoral scutes:
pair of posterior plastral scutes in contact with the abdominal, inframarginal and anal scutes.

AN Anal scutes:
Rearmost pair of scutes of the plastron.

iAN Inter-anal scutes:
Central, rearmost plastron scute or scutes between the pair of anal scutes (sometimes absent).

Below are some drawing to assist with learning about types of Syngnathiformes

Details and descriptions about Sea horses

Basic anatomy

Basic anatomy

Basic anatomy

Details and descriptions about Pipefish

Basic anatomy

Details and descriptions about Sea dragons

Basic anatomy

Rays dorsal view

Rays ventral view


Some terms or names of body parts for your reference

Ampullae of lorenzini
Special sensory organs that help sharks and rays to detect electric fields in the water. Used to locate prey.

Anterior means located on or near the front of an animal's body.

Long, fleshy projections that hang down either side of the mouth. These sensitive organs are thought to aid with feeding for some sharks.

The seabed, or the bottom of a lake or stream. Benthic sharks are bottom dwellers.

Light produced by living organisms, including some sharks. eg. Lantern shark.

marine animals that are caught accidentally in fishing nets. Often fisheries are aimed at a preferred "target species", and any other creatures caught are called bycatch.

Caudal Fin
Tail fins consisting of dorsal and ventral lobes.

Caudal Keel
A ridge found on the caudal peduncle of some sharks which provides stability during fast movement through the water.

Caudal Peduncle
The narrow part of the shark to which the tail fin is attached - the tail stalk.

Small, fleshy skin flaps that grow on some fish and invertebrates. They function in camouflage, and for species in which they are located near the mouth, possibly in feeding.

The two rolls of cartilage found near the pelvic fins of sexually mature male sharks. They serve to guide the sperm into the female's cloaca during mating.

Common exit point for the digestive, urinary, and reproductive systems.

Dorsal means area of the shark located on or near the top of an animal's body.

Dermal Denticles
Tiny tooth-like scales on the skin of a shark. Also called placoid scales.

Dorsal Fins
Two fins located on the dorsal side of the dogfish, cranial and caudal. Each dorsal fin includes a large spine preceding it that serves as a defensive structure. It has a gland at the base that secretes a poison that most other sharks lack.

Dorsal Lobe
Top lobe of the cuadal fin.

U-Shaped organ connecting the stomach in the intestine.

The class (some documentation lists it as a sub-class) that sharks, rays and skates belong to. It is a common generic term used to identify any shark or ray.

Tube that empties mouth contents into the stomach.

External Gill Slits
Located between the mouth and pectoral fins, there are five on each side. Water exits through external gill slits.

Two large, laterally placed eyes are set in deep sockets in the head. Bordering the edges are immovable eyelids.

Gall Bladder
Stores bile to break down fats.

Exchange oxygen and release carbon dioxide in water for respiration.

Gill Slits
Most sharks have five gill slits on both sides of their heads from which water exits after being drawn in through the mouth and over the gills.

Gill Rakers
Stiff projections protruding from the gill arches of filter feeders that prevent tiny food particles passing through.

Pumps blood to gills to absorb oxygen and release carbon dioxide. Blood then travels to remaining organs to deliver oxygen.

A caudal fin with unequal sized lobes.

A caudal fin with equal sized lobes.

Inter-Dorsal Ridge
A ridge of skin between the first and second dorsal fins of some sharks.

Responsible for absorbing nutrients and water before exiting the body.

Lateral means area of the shark located on or near the side of an animal's body.

Lateral Line
A series of small canals that form a kine on the lateral surface of the trunk. This allows for the ability to sense its own movement and that of the surrounding enviroment.

Consists of two lobes that concentrate and store oils and fatty acids. Functions in energy and storage and buoyancy.

Cresent shaped opening on the ventral side of the head. One entry point for water to move to the gills.

Paired openings located ventral to the snout on either side. This is where water enters and exits. If you look closely, you will see two separate channels in each nare.

An animal that is active mainly at night.

Egg laying animals where little or no embryonic development occurs inside the mother's body.

The young develop in eggs and nourished by yolk, but the eggs are kept within the mother's body until they're ready to hatch.

Gland that secretes pancreatic juice into the duodenum, where it mixes with bile to digest food.

Pectoral Fins
Paired fins at the dogfish's head region. function as rudders during swimming to change direction.

Relating to open water. Pelagic sharks are found in the open ocean.

Pelvic Fins
Paired fins at the caudal end of the trunk on the ventral side. These are used as stabilizers during swimming.

Placoid Scales
Also called dermal denticles. Small tooth-like scales on the skin of a shark.

Microscopic animals (zooplankton) and plants (phytoplankton) found floating in the marine environment and eaten by filter feeders.

Posterior means located on or near the back of an animal's body.

Rectal Gland
Removes salt in high concentrations from the shark's body.

The long, saw-like snout of the saw sharks and sawfishes.

Openings just behind the eyes of all rays and some sharks. They are modified gill slits that allow fish to take in oxygenated water. Spiracles help a shark to breathe when it is lying on the sea bottom or even buried right under the sand.

Spiral Valve
A spiral organ in the intestine that slows down the movement of food through the intestine for better absorption of nutrients.

Organ near the stomach that produces, stores, and eliminates blood cells.

Begins the breakdown of food, muscular walls to aid in the food digestion.

Tonic Immobility
A state of paralysis that can be induced by turning a shark on its back.

Ventral means area of the shark located on or near the bottom, of an animal's body.

Ventral Lobe
Bottom lobe of caudal fin.

species whose females give birth to live young, after the embryos develop inside their bodies. The growing embryos are nourished through a placenta formed from the yolk sac.

Help our marine friends by supporting these leading organizations in conservation

Below are some great organizations that dedicate their time and resources in order to support sea turtles and all marine animals.

Let's all step up and offer them our support by donating today...

Ocean's Inspiration donates a portion of all proceeds to the below organizations.


EarthEcho International is a nonprofit 501c3 organization founded in 2000 by siblings Philippe and Alexandra Cousteau in honor of their father Philippe Cousteau Sr., famous son of the legendary explorer Jacques Yves Cousteau. EarthEcho International's mission is to empower youth to take action that restores and protects our water planet.
EarthEcho International is committed to inspiring and engaging young people everywhere to be leaders for a bright future. EarthEcho equips today's youth with relevant tools, interactive resources and timely information to help them take action by identifying and working to solve environmental challenges in their communities.
EarthEcho's resources and programs put the tools of change in the hands of a generation primed and ready to take action. EarthEcho utilizes service-learning - a proven educational model - to helps students identify the root of a problem, develop an action plan and execute that plan in their community. Coupled with rich online resources and a focus on youth and educator outreach and support, EarthEcho engages and empowers young people to become environmental leaders.

Please visit EarthEcho International for more details.

Oceana, founded in 2001, is the largest international organization focused solely on ocean conservation, protecting marine ecosystems and endangered species . Our offices in Europe, North America, Central America and South America work together on a limited number of strategic, directed campaigns to achieve measurable outcomes that will help return our oceans to former levels of abundance. We believe in the importance of science in identifying problems and solutions. Our scientists work closely with our teams of economists, lawyers and advocates to achieve tangible results for the oceans.

Please visit Oceana for more details.

Project AWARE Foundation is a growing movement of scuba divers protecting the ocean planet - one dive at a time. Over the past two decades of underwater conservation we've learned that divers are true leaders in ocean protection. We're ocean heroes numbering in the millions across the globe. We believe together our actions will make a huge impact and will help to rescue the ocean. With new programs and more online resources than ever before, Project AWARE supports an unprecedented global movement of divers acting in their own communities to protect oceans and implement lasting change. We're focusing in on two major ocean issues - Sharks in Peril and Marine Debris, or trash in our ocean. Truly, there are many conservation issues converging on our ocean planet at once, but we're concentrating on these serious problems where scuba divers are uniquely positioned to directly and positively affect real, long-term change in these two areas.

Please visit Project AWARE for more details.

Sharks are in dire need of our support, here's why.

Established in 1977, Sea Shepherd conservation Society (SSCS) is an international non-profit, marine wildlife conservation organization. Our mission is to end the destruction of habitat and slaughter of wildlife in the world's oceans in order to conserve and protect ecosystems and species.

Sea Shepherd uses innovative direct-action tactics to investigate, document, and take action when necessary to expose and confront illegal activities on the high seas. By safeguarding the biodiversity of our delicately balanced ocean ecosystems, Sea Shepherd works to ensure their survival for future generations.

Please visit Sea Shepherd conservation Society for more details.

We started Shark Savers to save the sharks.

UPDATE: WildAid and Shark Savers have merged. Shark Savers' programs and name joined WildAid's portfolio of programs to protect endangered wildlife species including elephants, rhinos, and tigers; combining the complementary capabilities of the two organizations and increasing the efficiency of operations.

WildAid focuses on addressing the human threat to wildlife. Our comprehensive approach includes public awareness campaigns and educational initiatives to reduce consumer demand for wildlife products, and working with communities to support and enforce key protected habitats around the world. WildAid has also defined a comprehensive marine enforcement model that focuses on the law enforcement chain, which encompasses the activities of detection, interception, prosecution, and the sentencing of lawbreakers.

For more information, please visit: Shark Savers

For more information about WildAid, please visit: WildAid

Giving sharks a voice through: Research, Edcuation & Conservation

Shark biologist Dr. Ryan Kempster founded the Support Our Sharks (SOS) Ocean Conservation Society in 2010 with a mission to support healthy oceans by promoting better protection for sharks and their close relatives the rays and skates. SOS is a science-based conservation group raising awareness to the threats faced by sharks (and rays) in the 21st century. Dr. Kempster established SOS with the goal of educating the public by promoting conservation, outreach and research to inspire interest in protecting these important animals. We utilise a mixture of on-the-ground and online campaigning, educational outreach and peer-reviewed scientific research to encourage better protection for sharks and rays, whilst also promoting better protection of our delicately-balanced ocean ecosystems. By working closely with the general public and a wide range of specialist groups including scientists, divers and politicians, we are able to bring about positive change for sharks and their relatives worldwide. See the links below for more information, including details of our current programs and reports on our previous successes.

Please visit Support our sharks (SOS) for more details.

Conservation through awareness

Established in 1997, the Shark Trust is the only UK registered charity working to advance the worldwide conservation of sharks through science, education, influence and action.

The Trust is an effective and well respected advocate for shark management and protection, undertaking a range of projects, campaigns and policy work to ensure the survival of this integral apex predator of our oceans.

We are a founder member of the Shark Alliance, a campaign dedicated to restoring and conserving shark populations by improving European fishing policy, and Secretariat of the European Elasmobranch Association, which comprises of member organisation's involved in chondricthyan (shark, skate, ray and chimaera) conservation and research.

The Trust is in favour of sustainably managed fisheries and works with both commercial and recreational fishers and their representative organisations in a bid to secure a future for elasmobranch (shark, skate and ray) stocks.

We also work closely with a wide range of other specialist groups including divers, boat owners, politicians and the general public. As a membership organisation we provide a crucial link between the public and scientific community, and strongly believe that raising public awareness about sharks is vital to their conservation.

The Shark Trust:

  • Works to deliver effective UK, EU and International wildlife protection and fisheries management.
  • Is a well-respected authority for sound shark management and protection.
  • Delivers innovative and engaging public outreach, awareness and recording schemes.
  • Collaborates with shark advocates, scientists, government and industry towards sustainable domestic and international catch limits and protection for sharks, skates and rays

Please visit Shark Trust for more details.

Sea Turtles are in dire need of our support, here's why.

It is the mission of Sea Turtle Conservancy to ensure the survival of sea turtles within the Caribbean, Atlantic and Pacific through research, education, training, advocacy and protection of the natural habitats upon which they depend.

It is the mission of Sea Turtle Conservancy to ensure the survival of sea turtles within the Caribbean, Atlantic and Pacific through research, education, training, advocacy and protection of the natural habitats upon which they depend.
The Sea Turtle Conservancy, formerly known as the Caribbean Conservation Corporation, is the world's oldest sea turtle research and conservation group. An international nonprofit 501(c) 3 organization, Sea Turtle Conservancy was founded in 1959 by world-renowned sea turtle expert Dr. Archie Carr to save sea turtles from eminent extinction through rigorous science-based conservation. Headquartered in Florida, the organization carries out worldwide programs to conserve and recover sea turtle populations through research, education, advocacy and protection of the natural habitats upon which depend upon. Over the course of 55 years, Sea Turtle Conservancy's research programs have yielded much of what is now known about sea turtles and the threats they face, and the organization is applying this knowledge to carry out the world's most successful sea turtle protection and recovery programs.

Why Sea Turtles:

STC has chosen sea turtles as the focus of its conservation efforts in part because these ancient creatures are among the most important indicators of the health of the world's marine and coastal ecosystems. STC believes that whether sea turtles ultimately vanish from the planet or whether they remain a wild and thriving part of the natural world, will speak volumes about both the general health of the planet and the ability of humans to sustainably coexist with the diversity of life on Earth.

Please visit Sea Turtle Conservancy for more details.

About SEE Turtles

SEE Turtles was launched in 2008 as the world's first effort to protect these species through ecotourism. Since then, we have expanded to include educational programs and our Billion Baby Turtles project. We recently joined forces with Oceanic Society, America's first non-profit dedicated to ocean conservation.


Our mission is to protect endangered turtles throughout Latin America and the world by supporting community-based conservation efforts through ecotourism, education, and fundraising through Billion Baby Turtles.

Please visit SEE Turtles for more details.

Trash, specifically plastics, are killing our oceans here's how.

Ocean Conservancy works to keep the ocean healthy, to keep us healthy. Our goal is to bring people together to find solutions for our water planet. We educate and empower people to defend not only the ocean and its wildlife, but also the millions who earn their living from the ocean.

  • We are a voice for the ocean.
    Ocean Conservancy mobilizes citizen advocates to facilitate change and protect the ocean for future generations.
    Read More
  • We advocate for science.
    Ocean Conservancy champions research and monitoring efforts that will lead to innovative, sustainable solutions.
    Read More
  • We build on a foundation of success.
    Ocean Conservancy has been working for more than four decades to ensure the health of the ocean's valuable natural resources.
    Read More
  • We collaborate with partners.
    Ocean Conservancy partners with unexpected allies to develop cross-cutting solutions that lead to lasting change.
    Read More
  • We focus on people.
    Ocean Conservancy is committed to supporting efforts that benefit the people who depend on the ocean for food, jobs and recreation.
    Read More
  • We bring volunteers together.
    Ocean Conservancy's International Coastal Cleanup is the world's largest volunteer effort to clean up waterways and the ocean.
    Read More

Please visit Ocean Conservancy for more details.

"We believe in collaboration, we cannot solve this problem on our own."

This non-profit organization collects, motivates and initiates 'ghost fishing' projects around the globe. We are experienced and well-trained divers, who remove marine debris and make the problem called ghost fishing visible to a worldwide audience. We are very interested in a worldwide collaboration with other dive teams and like to participate in existing projects or start new projects all over the world by:

Physically removing nets, fishing gear and other marine debris
In the past 6 years we removed a very large amount of nets, fishing gear and other marine debris from shipwrecks, reefs and the seabed. By doing this we have gathered comprehensive experience and built our own techniques.

Investigating and documenting local situations (photo/film) "We illustrate this with photos and film", the power lies in visualizing the problem. We therefore work with professional underwater photographers and filmmakers and we always document our actions for evaluation and presentation purposes.

Ensuring diving safety We stick to standards & procedures to reduce risks to a minimum and will only work with divers who have adequate training and experience. Disclaimer: It needs to be clear that this work is dangerous. Reading the website or watching the videos in NO way replaces proper training and experience. On request, we can advise you about this topic.

Recycling marine debris Some types of marine debris such as fishing nets and weights (lead) can be used in recycling processes. We collect these materials and we are interested in cooperation with companies specialized in these processes.

Sharing knowledge and best practices We have extensive knowledge of many types of fishing techniques, marine waste and also marine life. We like to share this knowledge and are willing to learn from others.

Education & presentation We give educational presentations to (diving) clubs and during meetings, (dive) exhibitions and shows.

Please visit Ghost fishing for more details.

NOTE: While the below may be a bit different from normal conservation pages, I wanted to highlight there ARE non plastic options out there. We do NOT need to use plastics any longer. What can you do about trash? Well, while at a restaurant or store, tell them to start using biodegradable plastics. Be active and remove plastics from our restaurants and stores.
The below is only an example of what is available today and is not a paid advert.

Vegware is the UK's first and only completely compostable food packaging firm

We are pioneering the development and manufacture of eco friendly catering disposables and food packaging. Our products are stylish, functional, economic and sustainable. The Vegware range of 250+ compostable products spans cutlery through to tableware, napkins hot and cold drink cups, and takeaway packaging. We work with a network of distributors across the UK to deliver our range of eco disposables to our clients.

Please visit Vegware for more details.