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White encrusting zoanthid
Palythoa caribaeorum

The colonies form thick, incrusting mats on dead corals and other hard substrates. The skeleton is hard, somewhat cork-like in consistency. The outer surface is covered with large, round calyces surrounded by a low, rounded ridge or lips. The fleshy polyps have short, stout, rounded, tentacles in two rings. Oral discs pushed against one another when fully expanded (P. caribaeorum-close up). Oral discs up to 1.3 cm in diameter.


Inhabit shallow reefs in areas with some water movement, down to 12 m. If the tentacles are retracted the colony forms a dome-like lump.

Occasional Florida, Bahamas and Caribbean.

The related Knobby zoanthidean (Palythoa mammillosa ) forms small mats, rarely exceeding 10 cm across, and the oral discs are separated by polygonal dividing lines and do not touch when fully expanded.

White encrusting zoanthid (Palythoa caribaeorum)