Wednesday 1 June 2016

Sclerangia floridana: A new species of Coral from the Miocene of Florida.

Scleractinian Corals (or Stoney Corals) are colonial or singular Cnidarians that secrete calcium carbonate skeletons, with some colonial forms producing extensive reef systems, each individual polyp sitting in its own cup on the larger colonial strcture, and forming the dominant group of reef-building organisms in modern oceans. They appeared in the Middle Triassic, from an uncertain ancestor (earlier groups of reef-building Corals having gone extinct at the end of the Permian), and by the beginning of the Jurassic were already forming extensive reefs. However not all Sclerctinians are reef-builders, many species are solitary, or form small colonies on rocks or the shells of other animals.

In a paper published in the journal Paleontological Contributions on 30 April 2015, Rosemarie Baron-Szabo of the Department of Invertebrate Zoology at the Smithsonian Institution and the Senckenberg Research Institute, and Stephen Cairns, also of the Department of Invertebrate Zoology at the Smithsonian Institution, describe a new species of Scleractinian Coral from the Miocene Chipola Formation of Calhoun County, Florida.

The new species is named Sclerangia floridana, where 'Sclerangia' means 'hard-container' in reference to the corallite cups) and 'floridana' refers to the state of Florida. The species is described from a series of specimens in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution orginally described as Thysanus vaughani in 1972, but now recognized to be a separate species. Sclerangia floridana is a colonial Coral buding from the outside of the corallite cups. All specimens comprised small colonies growing on the surface of Gastropod (Snail) shells alongside Sipunculid Worms.

 Sclerangia floridana, Miocene, Chipola Formation, Calhoun County, Florida, United States; upper surface of largest colony (1) and close-up of (2); (3-5) smaller colonies. Scale bars: (1, 4) = 2.5 mm; (2, 3, 5) = 2 mm. Baron-Szabo & Cairns (2015).

See also... new species of Soft Coral from the Republic of Congo.                                                    Soft Corals (Octocorals) of the genus Alcyonium form encrusting, lobed colonies on shallow rocky surfaces in tropical waters. These Corals typically have...
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