There’s a new species of small polyp stony coral out of the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden called Porites fontanesii. The new Porites was just bestowed with the formal description of its unusual colony shape and growth form. Unlike truly branching species such as Porites porites and P. cylindrica or lumpy massive and submassive species like Porites lutea and P. astreoides, Porites fontanesii splits the difference with a massive base culminating in thick infrequent branching.
Porites fontanesii has so far only been found living in the southern Red Sea, Gulf of Tadjoura and Gulf of Aden at depth between five and fifteen meters (16 to 49 feet). Colonies of P. fontanesii have not been observed growing as large as some of the massive Porites species but it still reaches the appreciable size of 20 inches across. The few pictures so far of this unique Arabian Porites coral show an attractive colony shape with somewhat bulbous branch ends that would make a beautiful aquarium coral, although we’ll never enjoy this species since harvesting Scleractinia in this area is prohibited.
The description of Porites fontanesii was made using both genetic and morphometric characteristic and somewhat surprising was the inclusion of detailed in-situ macro photography. Usually when a new stony coral is described we are expecting to see images primarily of bleached skeleton but this description includes a plethora of living photographs. The new Porites stony coral was described in the latest issue of Zootaxa by Francesca Benzoni and Fabrizio Stefani and is named in honor of Prof. Marcello Fontanesi.