Like many coral species, Leptoria phrygia is zooxanthellate, which means that its tissues contain large numbers of single-celled algae called zooxanthellae. The coral and the algae have a symbiotic relationship, in which the algae gain a stable environment within the coral's tissues, while the coral receives nutrients produced by the algae through photosynthesis. By harnessing the sun's energy in this way, corals are able to grow rapidly and form vast reef structures, but are constrained to live near the water surface (3).
Leptoria phrygia is capable of both asexual reproduction, whereby the polyps proliferate through the production of clones, and by sexual reproduction. As a hermaphroditic species, each colony of Leptoria phrygia produces both sperm and eggs, which are released simultaneously in a single, annual spawning event that takes place over the course of several days. The exact timing of the release is linked to the season and to the phase of the moon, for example, Leptoria phrygia colonies in Australia spawn in December during the last quarter of the lunar cycle (4). The fertilised eggs develop into planktonic larvae, which travel through the water column, before settling and metamorphosing into sessile polyps (5).