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The turbinoliids are known from the Late Cretaceous (Campanian of Antarctica; Haumurian of New Zealand) to the Recent, spanning 75 million years. Living representatives are widespread in the world oceans, but are not known from off continental Antarctica, most of the eastern Pacific, and cold temperate northwest Atlantic. They are particularly diverse and abundant in the Indo-West Pacific region, especially off southern Australia, New Zealand, and the Indonesian regions. They live at depths of 6 to 1137 m. Turbinoliids are exclusively azooxanthellate and solitary in growth form, rarely more than 10 mm in size. Indeed, Turbinolia stephensoni, which was originally described in the genus Oryzotrochus by Wells (1959) because of its resemblance in size and shape to a grain of rice (Greek oryza = rice), measures only 1.5 mm in calicular diameter. The turbinoliids have one of the highest generic diversities among the Scleractinia (28, including 22 Recent), and the family contains 163 valid species (Cairns, 1997), only 51 of which are Recent (Cairns et al., 1999).


Because turbinoliid coralla are so small and infrequently collected, little is known about their biology. It is known that all turbinoliids completely cover, or invest, their corallum with tissue, making permanent attachment to a substrate impossible. The complete investiture of the turbinoliid corallum may facilitate movement through or across a sandy medium, as is the case of certain mushroom corals (Chadwick, 1988; Hoeksema, 1993) and thus, might be interpreted as an adaptation to an interstitial or semi-burrowing habit in sandy substrates at lower shelf and upper slope depths -- a niche exploited by few other Scleractinia most of which require a hard substrate for original planular settlement and subsequent support. Turbinoliids live in sandy-shelly environments, incorporating and overgrowing small bits of sand and shell into their base.


The paleoecology of turbinoliids was discussed by Filkorn (1994: 13-16) and the family was revised, including illustrations of all type species, by Cairns (1997). At least one genus, Peponocyathus, is the host for the galls of parasitic ascothoracidan Crustacea (Grygier and Zibrowius, 1985).


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