Anthozoa is a class within the phylum Cnidaria
Cnidaria is a phylum containing over 9,000 species of animals found exclusively in aquatic and mostly marine environments. Their distinguishing feature is cnidocytes, specialized cells that they use mainly for capturing prey. Their bodies consist of mesoglea, a non-living jelly-like substance,...

 that contains the sea anemone
Sea anemone
Sea anemones are a group of water-dwelling, predatory animals of the order Actiniaria; they are named after the anemone, a terrestrial flower. Sea anemones are classified in the phylum Cnidaria, class Anthozoa, subclass Zoantharia. Anthozoa often have large polyps that allow for digestion of larger...

s and coral
Corals are marine animals in class Anthozoa of phylum Cnidaria typically living in compact colonies of many identical individual "polyps". The group includes the important reef builders that inhabit tropical oceans and secrete calcium carbonate to form a hard skeleton.A coral "head" is a colony of...

s. Unlike other cnidarians, anthozoans do not have a medusa
Medusa (biology)
In biology, a medusa is a form of cnidarian in which the body is shaped like an umbrella, in contrast with polyps. Medusae vary from bell-shaped to the shape of a thin disk, scarcely convex above and only slightly concave below...

 stage in their development. Instead, they release sperm
The term sperm is derived from the Greek word sperma and refers to the male reproductive cells. In the types of sexual reproduction known as anisogamy and oogamy, there is a marked difference in the size of the gametes with the smaller one being termed the "male" or sperm cell...

 and eggs that form a planula
A planula is the free-swimming, flattened, ciliated, bilaterally symmetric larval form of various cnidarian species. The planula forms from the fertilized egg of a medusa, as the case in scyphozoans and some hydrozoans, or from a polyp, as in the case of anthozoans...

, which attaches to some substrate
Substrate (biochemistry)
In biochemistry, a substrate is a molecule upon which an enzyme acts. Enzymes catalyze chemical reactions involving the substrate. In the case of a single substrate, the substrate binds with the enzyme active site, and an enzyme-substrate complex is formed. The substrate is transformed into one or...

 on which the cnidarian grows. Some anthozoans can also reproduce asexually through budding
Budding is a form of asexual reproduction in which a new organism grows on another one. The new organism remains attached as it grows, separating from the parent organism only when it is mature. Since the reproduction is asexual, the newly created organism is a clone and is genetically identical...


The name comes from the Greek words άνθος [anthos] (meaning flower) and ζώα [zoa] (meaning animals), hence anthozoa = "flower animals", a reference to the floral appearance of their perennial polyp stage.

Biology and anatomy

Like those of other cnidarians, the individual polyps have a cylindrical body crowned by a ring of tentacles surrounding the mouth. The mouth leads into a tubular pharynx
The human pharynx is the part of the throat situated immediately posterior to the mouth and nasal cavity, and anterior to the esophagus and larynx. The human pharynx is conventionally divided into three sections: the nasopharynx , the oropharynx , and the laryngopharynx...

 which descends for some distance into the body before opening into the gastrovascular cavity that fills the interior of the body and tentacles. Unlike other cnidarians, however, the cavity is subdivided by a number of radiating partitions, or mesenteries
In anatomy, the mesentery is the double layer of peritoneum that suspends the jejunum and ileum from the posterior wall of the abdomen. Its meaning, however, is frequently extended to include double layers of peritoneum connecting various components of the abdominal cavity.-Mesentery :The...

. The gonad
The gonad is the organ that makes gametes. The gonads in males are the testes and the gonads in females are the ovaries. The product, gametes, are haploid germ cells. For example, spermatozoon and egg cells are gametes...

s are also located within the cavity walls.

All cnidarian species can feed by catching prey with nematocyst
A cnidocyte, cnidoblast, or nematocyte is a type of venomous cell unique to the phylum Cnidaria . The cnidocyte cell provides a means for them to catch prey and defend themselves from predators. Despite being morphologically simple, lacking a skeleton and usually being sessile, cnidarians prey on...

s; sea anemones are capable of catching fish and corals of catching plankton
Plankton are any drifting organisms that inhabit the pelagic zone of oceans, seas, or bodies of fresh water. That is, plankton are defined by their ecological niche rather than phylogenetic or taxonomic classification...

. Some of the species also harbour a type of algae
Algae are a large and diverse group of simple, typically autotrophic organisms, ranging from unicellular to multicellular forms, such as the giant kelps that grow to 65 meters in length. They are photosynthetic like plants, and "simple" because their tissues are not organized into the many...

, dinoflagellate
The dinoflagellates are a large group of flagellate protists. Most are marine plankton, but they are common in fresh water habitats as well. Their populations are distributed depending on temperature, salinity, or depth...

s called zooxanthella
Zooxanthellae are flagellate protozoa that are golden-brown intracellular endosymbionts of various marine animals and protozoa, especially anthozoans such as the scleractinian corals and the tropical sea anemone, Aiptasia....

e, in a symbiotic relationship; the reef building corals known as hermatypic corals rely on this symbiotic relationship particularly. The zooxanthellae benefit by using nitrogenous waste and carbon dioxide produced by the host or , and the cnidarian gains photosynthetic capability and increased calcium carbonate
Calcium carbonate
Calcium carbonate is a chemical compound with the formula CaCO3. It is a common substance found in rocks in all parts of the world, and is the main component of shells of marine organisms, snails, coal balls, pearls, and eggshells. Calcium carbonate is the active ingredient in agricultural lime,...

 production in hermatypic corals.

Anemones and certain species of coral live in isolation, however most corals form colonies of genetically identical polyps; these polyps closely resemble anemonies in structure, although are generally considerably smaller. Most kinds of stony coral
Deep water coral
The habitat of deep water corals, also known as cold water corals, extends to deeper, darker parts of the oceans than tropical corals, ranging from near the surface to the abyss, beyond where water temperatures may be as cold as 4°C...

 live in all parts of the underwater world.


Anthozoa is subdivided into two subclasses Octocorallia and Hexacorallia
Hexacorallia is a subclass of Anthozoa comprising approximately 4,300 species of water-based organisms formed of colonial polyps generally with 6-fold symmetry. This includes all of the stony corals, which are vital for coral reef formation, as well as all sea anemones, tube anemones, and zoanthids...

 which form monophyletic groups and generally show 8-way and 6-way symmetry in polyp
A polyp in zoology is one of two forms found in the phylum Cnidaria, the other being the medusa. Polyps are approximately cylindrical in shape and elongated at the axis of the body...

 structure respectively. Historically Ceriantipatharia was thought to be a separate subclass but the two order
Order (biology)
In scientific classification used in biology, the order is# a taxonomic rank used in the classification of organisms. Other well-known ranks are life, domain, kingdom, phylum, class, family, genus, and species, with order fitting in between class and family...

s it comprised, Ceriantharia and Antipatharia, are now considered part of Hexacorallia. The extant orders are shown to the right.

Hexacorallia includes important coral reef
Coral reef
Coral reefs are underwater structures made from calcium carbonate secreted by corals. Coral reefs are colonies of tiny living animals found in marine waters that contain few nutrients. Most coral reefs are built from stony corals, which in turn consist of polyps that cluster in groups. The polyps...

 builders the stony corals (Scleractinia
Scleractinia, also called stony corals, are exclusively marine animals; they are very similar to sea anemones but generate a hard skeleton. They first appeared in the Middle Triassic and replaced tabulate and rugose corals that went extinct at the end of the Permian...

), sea anemones (Actiniaria) and related tube-dwelling anemones (Ceriantharia), and zoanthids (Zoantharia
Zoanthids are an order of cnidarians commonly found in coral reefs, the deep sea and many other marine environments around the world. These animals come in a variety of different colonizing formations and in numerous colors...

). Genetic studies of ribosomal DNA
Ribosomal DNA
Ribosomal DNA codes for ribosomal RNA. The ribosome is an intracellular macromolecule that produces proteins or polypeptide chains. The ribosome itself consists of a composite of proteins and RNA. As shown in the figure, rDNA consists of a tandem repeat of a unit segment, an operon, composed of...

 has shown Ceriantharia to be a monophyletic group and the oldest, or basal, order among them.

Octocorallia comprises the sea pens (Pennatulacea), soft corals (Alcyonacea
The Alcyonacea, or the soft corals are an order of corals which do not produce calcium carbonate skeletons. Soft corals contain minute, spiny skeletal elements called sclerites. Aside from their scientific utility in species identification, sclerites give these corals some degree of support and...

), and blue coral (Helioporacea). Sea whips and sea fans, known as gorgonians, are part of Alcyonacea and historically were divided into separate orders.

A number of extinct orders of corals have been classified as their calcium skeleton forms a prolific fossil record. These are generally thought to be close to the ancestors of modern Scleractinians and existed during the Paleozoic
The Paleozoic era is the earliest of three geologic eras of the Phanerozoic eon, spanning from roughly...

 Era 570-245 million years ago:
  • Numidiaphyllida †
  • Kilbuchophyllida †
  • Heterocorallia †
  • Rugosa
    Disambiguation:The Rugosa Rose is also sometimes just called "Rugosa". For the moon in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, see .The Rugosa, also called the Tetracoralla, are an extinct order of coral that were abundant in Middle Ordovician to Late Permian seas.Solitary rugosans are often referred to...

  • Heliolitida †
  • Tabulata †
  • Cothoniida †
  • Tabuloconida †

These are all corals and correspond to the fossil record time line shown below; they comprise the majority of the fossils of Anthozoa due to their calcareous skeleton being preserved.
The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.