Leptoseris troglodyta is a new species of stony coral which was discovered living in caves of Cebu, Palau and Indonesia. The new Leptoseris troglodyta gets its name from the term ‘troglodyte’ which refers to cave dwelling creatures and it is the first record of a Leptoseris living without any zooxanthellae. Now when we think of caves we think deep but Leptoseris troglodyta was found in relatively shallow depths of 5-35 meters (16-115 feet). What is particularly interesting about the new find is that not only does Leptoseris troglodyta only grows in caves, it prefers growing upside down on the ceiling of the cave.
Instead of forming the plating colonies that we normally expect from Leptoseris species, Leptoseris troglodyta forms little cup shaped structures which usually consist of one mouth. So rather than growing large plates, Leptoseris troglodyta produces these cup-shaped growths which when they grow together look pretty much like a small grouping of terrestrial mushrooms. We are a huge fan of all Leptoseris coral species and particularly fond of these and related corals which are particularly shade-loving. Now just because Leptoseris troglodyta is non-photosynthetic does not mean that it is not colorful, as some specimens have been seen in colors of pink or green perhaps due to other forms of endolithic algae growing in the coral.
If such a distinct species such as Leptoseris troglodyta can be discovered from relatively shallow water who knows what stony coral are yet to be revealed. The new Leptoseris species was described by Bert Hoeksema in the latest edition of ZooKeys.
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