Helioporacea is an order of the subclass Octocorallia that forms massive lobed crystalline calcareous skeletons in colonial corals. These corals first appeared in the Cretaceous period.[3] It consists of two families, Helioporidae Moseley, 1876[4] and Lithotelestidae Bayer & Muzik, 1977.[5]

Blue coral (Heliopora coerulea)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Cnidaria
Class: Anthozoa
Subclass: Octocorallia
Order: Helioporacea
Bock, 1938[1]
  • Coenothecalia Bourne, 1895[2]
  • Helioporoidea Bock, 1938[2]
  • Helioporaria Stiasny, 1939[2]

The blue coral (Heliopora coerulea), the only extant species in the family Helioporidae, is most common in shallow water of the tropical Pacific[6] and Indo-Pacific reefs.[7] It has no spicules, and is the only octocoral known to produce a massive skeleton formed of fibrocrystalline aragonite fused into lamellae, similar to that of the Scleractinia (stony corals). They form large colonies that can exceed a meter in diameter. They are composed of vertical branches, or folia.

The surface of blue coral and similar species appears smooth and the color in life is a distinctive grey-brown with white tips. The entire skeleton, however, has an unusual blue color and therefore the species is commonly exploited for decorative uses.[8] The blue color of the skeleton (which is covered with a layer of brown polyps) is caused by iron salts. Blue coral can be used in tropical aquaria, and the crystalline calcareous fibres in the skeletons can be used for jewelry.

Individual polyps have eight feathery tentacles and, in the gastrovascular cavity, eight septa, or partitions. Cilia (tiny hairlike projections) on six septa draw water into the cavity. Cilia on the other two septa expel water. The skeleton consists of spicules that form a protective cup around each polyp.[9]


  1. Bock, S. (1938). The alcyonarian genus Bathyalcyon. Kungliga Svenska Vetenskaps-akademiens Handlingar, 16(5), 1–54.
  2. Bayer, F. M. (1979). The correct name of the helioporan octocoral Lithotelesto micropora Bayer and Muzik. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, 92(4), 873–875.
  3. "Coenothecalia: Definition from". Answers.com. Retrieved 2012-02-09.
  4. Moseley, H. N. (1876). On the structure and relations of the alcyonarian Heliopora caerula, with some account of the anatomy of a species of Sarcophyton, notes on the structure of species of the genera Millepora, Pocillopora, and Stylaster, and remarks on the affinities of certain palaeozoic corals. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, 166, 91–129.
  5. Bayer, F. M. & Muzik, K. M. (1977). An Atlantic helioporan coral (Coelenterata: Octocorallia). Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, 90(4), 975–984.
  6. "Coenothecalia – Dictionary definition of Coenothecalia | Encyclopedia.com: FREE online dictionary". Encyclopedia.com. Retrieved 2012-02-09.
  7. "Coenothecalia – Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary". Merriam-webster.com. 2010-08-13. Retrieved 2012-02-09.
  8. "Order Coenothecalia". Scribd.com. Retrieved 2012-02-09.
  9. "blue coral (order) - Britannica Online Encyclopedia". Britannica.com. Retrieved 2012-02-09.
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