Short Communication

Marine Biodiversity

, Volume 42, Issue 2, pp 297-302

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

It pays to have a big mouth: mushroom corals ingesting salps at northwest Borneo

  • Bert W. HoeksemaAffiliated withDepartment of Marine Zoology, Netherlands Centre for Biodiversity Naturalis Email author 
  • , Zarinah WaheedAffiliated withDepartment of Marine Zoology, Netherlands Centre for Biodiversity NaturalisBorneo Marine Research Institute, Universiti Malaysia Sabah, Jalan UMS


During daytime dives in July 2011 on the reefs of Kota Kinabalu (Sabah, Malaysia), large quantities of slow-moving salps (Tunicata: Thaliacea: Salpida) were observed. Some of these were seen to be caught and ingested by various mushroom corals (Fungiidae) and an anchor coral (Euphylliidae). The predators had complete salps (2–6 cm long) or partly digested salp remnants stuck inside their wide-open mouths. Salps that were observed landing on top of mushroom corals did not escape. They became captured by tentacles and were transported towards the opening coral mouths. To our knowledge, the present in situ observation is the first record of numerous salps being consumed by corals. All the observed predating coral species, either belonging to monostomatous or polystomatous species, possessed large mouths. The presence of multiple mouths enables mushroom corals to become larger than those with single mouths. Because a large polyp size facilitates the capture of food, it is advantageous for them to be polystomatous, especially when they possess a large mouth.


Scleractinia Thaliacea Predator/prey interactions Polyp size Monostomatous Polystomatous