species: Xenia sp. in Lizard Island Field Guide (Lizard Island Field Guide)
Xenia sp.

©Andy Lewis: A colony of Xenia sp. s(p). at Watsons Bay showing the typical morphology.

©Andy Lewis: Macro photograph of a colony of Xenia sp. with extended polyps

©Anne Hoggett: A group of Xenia sp. colonies on the reef flat on the south side of South Island, Lizard Island Group. These colonies were not pulsing their tentacles.
Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Cnidaria
Class Anthozoa
Order Alcyonacea
Family Xeniidae
Genus Xenia
Species Xenia sp.



Distinguishing features

Colonies consist of small mounds up to 4cm diameter, with distinct large polyps on long stalks. Polyps are monomorphic and non-retractile, and may pulse rhythmically. Colonies are usually white, cream, or pale brown.


  • Size data has not been obtained.


Similar taxa


Distribution and habitat preferences

Reef flats and front slopes with good water movement.

Can be found in most reef habitats around Lizard Island.


Xenia sp(p). are known to have high concentrations of toxic organic compounds, which deter predators and also inhibit settlement and competition from other benthic organisms. The Xeniid corals brood their planula larvae internally, and release larvae over many months of the year, in contrast to the alcyoniid soft corals which are synchronised broadcast spawners.

Web resources


References that assist with identification

  • Fabricius, K. and P. Alderslade (2001). in: Soft corals and sea fans: a comprehensive guide to the tropical shallow water genera of the central-west Pacific, the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea. Australian Institute of Marine Science, Townsville.

Other references

  • Alino, P.M. and J.C. Coll (1989). Observations of the synchronized mass spawning and post settlement activity of octocorals on the Great Barrier Reef, Australia: biological aspects, Bulletin of Marine Science, 45(3): 697-707.
  • Fabricius, K.E. (1997). Soft coral abundance on the central Great Barrier Reef: effects of Acanthaster planci, space availability, and aspects of the physical environment, Coral Reefs, 16(3): 159-167.
  • View all references