BIOTIC Species Information for Corallina officinalis
Researched byDr Harvey Tyler-Walters Data supplied byMarLIN
Refereed byDr Thomas Wiedemann
Scientific nameCorallina officinalis Common nameCoral weed
MCS CodeZM204 Recent SynonymsCorallina officinalis var. flabellifera

PhylumRhodophycota Subphylum
Superclass ClassRhodophyceae
SubclassFlorideophycidae OrderCorallinales
Suborder FamilyCorallinaceae
GenusCorallina Speciesofficinalis

Additional InformationAlso known as 'Cunach Tra' or 'An Fheamainn Choirealach' in Ireland. Growth form can be variable, for example:
  • stunted specimens occur in high shore pools
  • much branched forms in the lower littoral
  • thick elongate forms in sublittoral
In Norway fronds 1-2 cm long recorded in lower littoral in contrast to 10-17 cm long fronds in pools. This variability has resulted in numerous species descriptions that are probably synonymous with Corallina officinalis (Irvine & Chamberlain 1994).
Taxonomy References Fish & Fish, 1996, Irvine & Chamberlain, 1994, Dickinson, 1963, Hiscock, 1986(b), Guiry, 2000,
General Biology
Growth formArticulate
Crustose hard
Feeding methodPhotoautotroph
Mobility/MovementPermanent attachment
Environmental positionEpifloral
Typical food typesNot relevant HabitAttached
BioturbatorNot relevant FlexibilityLow (10-45 degrees)
FragilityIntermediate SizeMedium(11-20 cm)
Height Growth Rate2.2 mm / month
Adult dispersal potentialNone DependencyIndependent
General Biology Additional InformationThe biology of articulate corallines was reviewed by Johanssen (1974). In culture Corallina officinalis fronds exhibited an average growth rate of 2.2 mm/month at 12 and 18 deg C. Growth rate was only 0.2 mm/month at 6 deg C and no growth was observed at 25 deg C (Colhart & Johanssen 1973). The crustose holdfast or base is perennial and grows apically, similar to encrusting corallines such as Lithothamnia sp.. The basal crust may grow continuously until stimulated to produce fronds (Littler & Kauker 1984; Colhart & Johanssen 1973). Growth rates may be comparable to encrusting corallines, for example, 2 -7mm per year was reported for Lithophyllum incrustans (Littler 1972). Fronds are highly sensitive to desiccation and do not recover from an 15 percent water loss, which might occur within 40 -45 minutes during a spring tide in summer (Wiedemann 1994). Littler & Kauker (1984) suggest that the crustose bases were adapted to resist grazing and desiccation whereas the fronds were adapted for higher primary productivity and reproduction. Corallina officinalis may support epiphytes, including Mesophyllum lichenoides, Titanoderma pustulatum, and Titanoderma corallinae, the latter causing tissue damage (Irvine & Chamberlain 1994). Corallina officinalis may be overgrown by epiphytes, especially during summer. This overgrowth regularly leads to high mortality of fronds due to light reduction (Wiedemann pers comm.). Other, crustose corallines produce anti-epiphytal substances, like e.g. allelopathics (Suzuki et al. 1998), however, this type of substance has not been found yet in Corallina officinalis.
Biology References Fish & Fish, 1996, Irvine & Chamberlain, 1994, Dickinson, 1963, Colhart & Johanssen, 1973, Johansen, 1974, Littler, 1972, Littler & Kauker, 1984, Dommasnes, 1968, Bamber & Irving, 1993, Wiedemann, 1994, Padilla, 1984, Rosenvinge, 1917,
Distribution and Habitat
Distribution in Britain & IrelandGenerally distributed around all shores of the British Isles.
Global distributionRecorded widely in the north Atlantic, from northern Norway to Morocco, from Greenland to Argentina. Also reported in Japan, China and Australasia.
Biogeographic rangeNot researched Depth range0 - 18m
MigratoryNon-migratory / Resident   
Distribution Additional InformationIn exposed conditions it may grow as a cushion like or compact turf (Irvine & Chamberlain 1994; Dommasnes 1968). Corallina officinalis growing under macroalgal canopies may be abraded and fronds shortened by macroalgal lamina moved by tidal action. Recorded from Scandinavia, Iceland, northern Norway, Baltic Sea, Helgoland, Faroes, Netherlands, northern France, Spain, Portugal, the Azores, Morocco, Madeira, and the Canary Islands in the north east Atlantic. Reported from Spain, Balearic Islands, Corsica, Sardinia, Italy, Scilly, Adriatic, Greece, Turkey, Levant States, Libya, Tunisia, and Algeria in the Mediterranean. It is also recorded from west coast of South Africa., Japan, China, Australia (Queensland) and New Zealand. Also recorded from Greenland and Arctic Canada to the USA, Caribbean Venezuela, Columbia and Argentina.

Substratum preferencesArtificial (e.g. metal/wood/concrete)
Large to very large boulders
Crevices / fissures
Physiographic preferencesOpen coast
Strait / sound
Ria / Voe
Enclosed coast / Embayment
Biological zoneMid Eulittoral
Sublittoral Fringe
Upper Infralittoral
Lower Eulittoral
Wave exposureVery Exposed
Moderately Exposed
Tidal stream strength/Water flowModerately Strong (1-3 kn)
Weak (<1 kn)
Very Weak (negligible)
SalinityVariable (18-40 psu)
Full (30-40 psu)
Habitat Preferences Additional Information
Distribution References Fish & Fish, 1996, Irvine & Chamberlain, 1994, Dickinson, 1963, Guiry, 2000, Norton, 1985, JNCC, 1999, Picton & Costello, 1998, Johansen, 1974, Dommasnes, 1968, Bamber & Irving, 1993, Hardy & Guiry, 2003,
Reproduction/Life History
Reproductive typeAlternation of generations
Developmental mechanismSee additional information
Spores (sexual / asexual)
Reproductive SeasonSee additional information Reproductive LocationInsufficient information
Reproductive frequencyAnnual episodic Regeneration potential No
Life spanInsufficient information Age at reproductive maturityInsufficient information
Generation timeInsufficient information FecundityInsufficient information
Egg/propagule sizeNot researched Fertilization typeInsufficient information
Larval/Juvenile dispersal potentialInsufficient information Larval settlement period
Duration of larval stage2-10 days   
Reproduction Preferences Additional InformationThe typical life cycle of members of the Florideophycidae is summarised as follows:
  • Male haploid gametophytes release male gametes (spermatia) from spermatangia on male fronds.
  • Female haploid gametophytes produce the female gamete, the carpogonium on female fronds
  • After fusion (fertilization) the carposporophyte develops, enclosed in a cystocarp and releases diploid carpospores.
  • Carpospores develop into the tetrasporophyte, a diploid sporophyte stage.
  • The sporophyte develops tetrasporangia in which haploid tetraspores are formed by meiosis.
  • The tetraspores develop into gametophytes.
The gametophyte and sporophyte stages in the order Corallinaceae are isomorphic (Bold & Wynne 1978). In the Corallinaceae the reproductive organs are sunken into cavities called conceptacles. Male conceptacles are beaked. Gametophytes bear densely crowded conceptacles and are usually smaller and more irregular in shape than tetrasporangial plants. Reproductive bodies and spores are described in detail by Irvine & Chamberlain (1994). Tetrasporangia may be seen throughout the year but gametangial conceptacles are rare in the British Isles (Irvine & Chamberlain 1994). In Denmark fronds were reported to cease growing in summer, sloughed in autumn, and new fronds initiated from crustose, perenniating bases in late winter (Rosenvinge 1917 cited in Johanssen 1974). Released tetraspores settle within 48hrs, and develop into 4 celled stage (each cell capable of forming a sporophyte if others are destroyed), which calcifies quickly, and grows 3.6 micrometers per day at 17 -20 deg C, sporeling formed within 48hrs, a crustose base within 72hrs, fronds being initiated after 3 weeks and the first intergeniculum (segment) formed within 13 weeks (Jones & Moorjani 1973). Corallina officinalis shows optimal settlement on finely rough artificial substrata (0.5 - 1mm surface particle diameter). Although spores will settle and develop as crustose bases on smooth surfaces, fronds were only initiated on rough surfaces. Corallina officinalis settled on artificial substrata within one week in the field in summer months in New England (Harlin & Lindbergh 1977). However, in the laboratory fronds can grow from bases attached to smooth surfaces (Wiedeman pers comm.).
Reproduction References Johansen, 1974, Littler & Kauker, 1984, Harlin & Lindbergh, 1977, Jones & Moorjani, 1973.,
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