For so many years, we thought we saw Montipora capricornis everywhere. So many people were use that name for just any about any cup-shaped or plating Monti including M. foliosa, M. florida or M. aequituberculata was labelled a ‘Monti Cap’. You just need to google that name and look at the thousands of incorrectly identified pictures that come up.
It took a series of post on Montipora to come to the realization that I’ve never seen a ‘real’ Montipora capricornis. But luckily, on an Australian Diving Trip with Ultra Coral Australia, we finally got to meet the real and elusive Montipora capricornis.
What does it look like?
First of all, the candidate for the real Monti Cap appears very different to all the other Cup shape or foliose Montipora I’ve seen in the past. It’s a lot thicker than the others and most of the colonies we saw were at least 8-10 mm thick.
Then the shape is not like all the other plating Montis, since the radius of the Cup is really big and aquarium collected specimen are actually plating, not cupping. A fully grown cup shape colony would only fit in a huge aquarium since the colony we saw with one single cup shape colony were almost a meter (3 ft) wide.
Then the color, even if in ‘Corals of the World’ we were told, that they may photograph pink, and they are in fact blue. In 15 m (45 ft) of water, they do look pale blue, and even grey a bit deeper. Because of it’s pretty grey, boring appearance under water, and the fact that there was not any very large colonies of it. It took us quite a few dives to understand what species it was. Its very particular shape and texture is very unique so once you’ve seen one, you realize how distinguishable they are.
At the corallite level, those of true M. capricornis are immersed. Then the important detail, is that they have no papillae or tuberculae on their surface. But it doesn’t mean that its surface is flat or smooth neither. Its coenosteum is coarse, giving a pretty rough look to its surface.
We found this species, in this deep, slightly exposed lagoon, of the inshore reef. The same reef as the one where we found many gold chalice corals. Inshore reefs, receive a huge amount of food, on the outgoing tides. Basically, all the rich inshore water in sucked through the barrier reefs and the interior reefs of the great barrier, are the first one to feast. Furthermore this wide, thick cup shape is a perfect particle trap.
They were starting to be abundant from 8-10 m (25-30 ft) and all the way past the 30 m (90 ft), as the water gets dirty on outgoing tides, but it gets pretty clear on incoming tides, with fresh oceanic clear water being pulled in.
Considering the habitat, probably that this Montipora would do well, under medium-high lighting, and pretty good flow and a good plankton feeding would be highly beneficial to its growth. Considering the thickness of its skeleton, we wouldn’t expect it to grow very fast. But since we now know it’s out there, it’s likely that it will become more available, not only from Ultra coral Australia, but may be from other collectors.
Then we will know more in the near future about its particular aquarium needs.This coral is another unique coral available from Australia and a reminder that after all, diversity of coral from Australia, is actually a lot greater than just Strawberry Shortcake Acros and Micromussa – it just takes someone to go out there!