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DescriptionA solitary hard coral, up to 2.5 cm in diameter, very rarely occurring in clusters of two to four. The polyp has less than 80 translucent tentacles with small but distinct terminal knobs. The calcified cup-shaped skeleton (corallum) has smooth-edged projecting septa and is usually broader than high. Colour is very variable ranging from white, pink, orange, red to green. The disc usually has a contrasting zigzag ring pattern around the mouth.Manuel (1988) states that the Devonshire cup coral has two forms; a shallow water form (Caryophyllia smithii var. smithii) that can be found in waters up to 100 m deep and a deep water form (Caryophyllia smithii var. clavus) that is found in water >50-1000 m deep. The shape of the corallum is distinctly different between the two forms, the deep water form being smaller with a narrow base, but the two forms are otherwise similar in general structure (Manuel, 1988).
Caryophyllia inornata is very similar and co-occurs in some locations. Young specimens of Caryophyllia smithii are usually six-rayed and may be virtually indistinguishable from Caryophyllia inornata (Manuel, 1983).