Larger star coral (Favites chinensis)

Synonyms: Favites yamanarii, Prionastrea chinensis
GenusFavites (1)

Favites chinensis is classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List (1) and listed on Appendix II of CITES (2).

Growing in characteristically shaped mounds or domes, Favites chinensis forms massive, rounded colonies composed of numerous individual polyps. Each polyp secretes a hard skeleton, called a ‘corallite’, which is shallow and angular, with thin walls. Adjacent corallites often share a common wall, and the septa (projections that point inwards from the corallite wall) are straight and even, giving the coral a uniform, star-like appearance. Favites chinensis is generally yellow or greenish-brown in colour (3). 

Favites chinensis is found throughout the Indian Ocean, the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, the Arabian Gulf, the East China Sea and the West and Central Pacific Oceans (1) (3).

Occurring in a wide range of shallow reef environments, Favites chinensis is found on subtidal rock and rocky reefs, in the outer reef channel, on reef slopes and in lagoons. It can be also found on inter-tidal rubble substrate, inhabiting depths down to 20 metres (1).

Favites chinensis can reproduce asexually, forming colonies by a process called ‘budding’ (where each polyp divides itself into two or more daughter polyps). Favites chinensis is also a hermaphrodite and can reproduce sexually by producing eggs and sperm, which are released into the water during a short spawning period (3) (4).

Like other reef-building corals, Favites chinensis has many microscopic, photosynthetic algae, called zooxanthellae, living within the polyp tissues. The coral and the algae have a mutually beneficial relationship; the coral provides protection for the algae, which in return provide energy and nutrients through photosynthesis. Both Favites chinensis and its zooxanthellae are very sensitive to changes in water temperature and acidity, and any increase in the water temperature greater than one or two degrees above the normal average can stress the coral and cause ‘bleaching’, a phenomenon in which the coral expels it zooxanthellae and turns white (3) (5).

The proportion of corals threatened with extinction has increased dramatically in recent decades, with current estimates suggesting that a third of all coral species have an ‘elevated risk’ of extinction (6). Detailed studies have found that around 20 percent of the world’s coral reefs have been already been destroyed, while at least 24 percent of remaining reefs face a high risk of collapse (7).

Corals are particularly affected by the changing global climate, with rising sea temperatures, ocean acidification and mass coral bleaching events all contributing to significant declines in corals. In addition, these varying conditions have greatly increased the susceptibility of corals to disease, a factor which has recently emerged as a major cause of reef deterioration. Favites chinensis is often targeted for the aquarium trade and is under threat from over-collection, as well as from pollution from agriculture, industrial activity, human developments, recreation and tourism (1) (6) (7).

Favites chinensis is listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which means that all trade in the species should be carefully monitored. It is also known from several Marine Protected Areas. The identification and establishment of new protected areas may prove crucial for the conservation of Favites chinensis and many other corals, while further research into disease, pathogen and parasite management in corals is also needed. Further research into aspects of Favites chinensis’s ecology, abundance, population trends, habitat status and taxonomy is required in order to find out more about how the species is likely to respond to the increasing number of threats throughout its range (1).

For further information on the conservation of coral reefs see:

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  1. IUCN Red List (September, 2010)
  2. CITES (September, 2010)
  3. Veron, J.E.N. (2000) Corals of the World. Australian Institute of Marine Science, Townsville, Australia.
  4. Richmond, R.H. and Hunter, C.L. (1990) Reproduction and recruitment of corals: comparisons among the Caribbean, the Tropical Pacific and the Red Sea. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 60: 185-203.
  5. Veron, J.E.N. (1993) Corals of Australia and the Indo-Pacific. University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, Hawaii.
  6. Carpenter, K.E. et al. (2008) One-third of reef-building corals face elevated extinction risk from climate change and local impacts. Science, 321(5888): 560-563.
  7. Miththapala, S. (2008) Coral Reefs. Coastal Ecosystem Series (Volume 1). Ecosystems and Livelihoods Group Asia, IUCN, Colombo, Sri Lanka. Available at: