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Introduction

The fungiacyathids are known from the Late Cretaceous (Campanian of the Antarctic Peninsula, about 84 million years ago; see Filkorn, 1994) to the Recent. Species are found living in all ocean basins, including off continental Antarctica, and at depths of 70-6328 m, which is the greatest depth from which scleractinian corals have ever been recorded (Keler, 1976). The deepest record, from the Kuril-Kamchatcka Trench, equates to 20,762 feet, or 3.93 miles. The deeper-living species occur below the calcium carbonate compensation depth.

  

Fungiacyathids are exclusively azooxanthellate and exclusively solitary in growth form, always unattached, laying free on soft substrates. The largest known specimen is 62 mm in calicular diameter (Cairns and Zibrowius, 1997), but most are less than 25 mm in diameter. Their corallum is usually extremely fragile and therefore often damaged in collection. Twenty Recent species are known (Cairns et al., 1999): 6 in the nominate subgenus and 14 in Fungiacyathus (Bathyactis). Six to eight fossil species have also been described (see Filkorn, 1994). Three of the 20 species appear to reproduce primarily by fragmentation and subsequent regeneration. Several species are hosts for the galls of parasitic ascothoracidan Crustacea (Grygier and Zibrowius, 1985).

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