Diploria labyrinthiformisGrooved brain coral

Geographic Range

Grooved brain coral, Diploria labyrinthiformis, grows in the Caribbean, Bahamas, southern Florida, and Bermuda. This species tends to grow on less solid and loose substrates of the ocean floor. (Jones, 1977; Rossi-Snook, 2011)


Grooved brain coral is in the order Scleractinia, stony corals. The optimum temperature for adult Scleractinia coral is between 25 and 29 degrees Celcius; the absolute minimal temperature is 18 degrees Celcius. Because it has a single-celled symbiotic algae within its cells, grooved brain coral needs to be at depths where light can penetrate the water. As a result, this species has a depth limit of approximately 50 meters. Diploria labyrinthiformis grows throughout the year around Bermuda and in other areas off the Carribean. This coral can live in high areas of sediments. Members of the genus Diploria are found in high abundance on Bermuda's reefs when compared to other corals. This high abundance is due to the fact that genus Diploria has lower juvenile mortality rates than other coral groups. (Cohen, et al., 2004; Logan, et al., 1994; Rossi-Snook, 2011; Smith, 1992)

  • Aquatic Biomes
  • reef
  • Range depth
    50 (high) m
    164.04 (high) ft

Physical Description

Diploria labyrinthiformis has very distinct valleys that contain polyps, and deeper grooves beneath the ridges. The valleys are 5-10 mm wide, up to 6 mm deep and u-shaped in a cross section. The ridges are wider than valleys, up to 15 mm, and have a concave profile with edges 2-4 mm higher than the rest of the ridge. Right angles of the plates, or septa, make it look like there are double combs in the valleys. Crests, or costae, of the septa form across the valley walls. Grooved brain coral tends to grow to longer lengths when inhabiting shallow waters. Colonies of D. labyrinthiformis can be one to two meters in diameter. Grooved brain coral can be a variety of colors including tans, yellows, and grays. (Logan, et al., 1994; Rosen and Darrell, 2011; Rossi-Snook, 2011; Spalding, 2004)

  • Range length
    2 (high) m
    6.56 (high) ft


Grooved brain coral has a broadcaster mode of development. Diploria labyrinthiformis is fertilized internally and then releases eggs into the ocean. The eggs hatch into swimming planktonic planulae larvae, which settle on an appropriate substrate, where asexual reproduction begins. Secondary polyps are formed, which develop to adult polyps. This species can grow at a rate of 3.5 millimeters per year. (Alvarado, et al., 2003; Rossi-Snook, 2011)


Grooved brain coral is hermaphroditic, with an annual gametogenic cycle with a 10-11 month period for gonad (sex organ) development. The typical spawning season of grooved brain coral is from late May to late June. Spawning likely begins for this species as a result of environmental cues such as high air temperature, low number of solar hours per month, low wind velocity, and initiation of the rainy season. (Alvarado, et al., 2003)

Grooved brain coral has an average of four mature eggs and six spermatic cysts per fertile mesentery. Eggs and spermatic cysts are located towards the aboral (opposite the mouth) part of the mesentery. (Alvarado, et al., 2003)

  • Breeding season
    The breeding season is from late May to late June.

There has been no known parental care for D. labyrinthiformis. Eggs are released after they are fertilized. (Rossi-Snook, 2011)

  • Parental Investment
  • no parental involvement
  • pre-fertilization
    • protecting
      • female


The lifespan of D. labyrinthiformis is unknown. However, members of the genus Diploria are found in high abundance on Bermuda's reefs when compared to other corals. This high abundance is due to the fact that genus Diploria has lower juvenile mortality rates than other coral groups. (Smith, 1992)


Grooved brain coral is a sessile. The polyp coral will retract it's tentacles in the daytime, and will extend them to feed at night. (Rossi-Snook, 2011)

Communication and Perception

There has been no research conducted on the communication and perception in D. labyrinthiformis. Many corals capture food with expanded tentacles suggesting a tactile response to the environment. (Rossi-Snook, 2011)

Food Habits

Diploria labyrinthiformis depends primarily on suspension feeding of small marine invertebrates. This coral also has zooxanthellate algae. The symbiotic algae photosynthesize and supply the coral with nutrients and energy for calcification and growth. (Rosen and Darrell, 2011; Rossi-Snook, 2011)

  • Primary Diet
  • carnivore
    • eats other marine invertebrates
  • Animal Foods
  • aquatic or marine worms
  • aquatic crustaceans
  • other marine invertebrates
  • zooplankton
  • Other Foods
  • microbes


Common coral predators include gastropods, polychaetes, echinoids, asteroids, pycnogonids, and fishes, such as parrotfish. (Rossi-Snook, 2011; Sterrer, 1986)

  • Known Predators
    • Gastropods
    • Polychaetes
    • Echinoids
    • Asteroids
    • Pycnogonids
    • Fish
    • Parrotfish

Ecosystem Roles

Giant brain coral serves as homes for other organisms. Grazing by Diadema antillarum, the long-spined urchin, may benefit D. labyrinthiformis by reducing macroalgal growths. Zooxanthellate algae live within the cells of D. labyrinthiformis. The single-celled algae receives protection and feeds on coral waste, while the coral receives nutrients and energy from the algae. (Rossi-Snook, 2011)

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • creates habitat
Mutualist Species
  • zooxanthellate algae

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Grooved brain coral helps to make up the coral reefs that serve as diving attractions.

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known negative impacts of this species.

Conservation Status

Diploria labyrinthiformis is listed as least concern on the IUCN Red List.


Brooke Johnson (author), University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Christopher Yahnke (editor), University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Renee Mulcrone (editor), Special Projects.


Atlantic Ocean

the body of water between Africa, Europe, the southern ocean (above 60 degrees south latitude), and the western hemisphere. It is the second largest ocean in the world after the Pacific Ocean.

World Map


reproduction that is not sexual; that is, reproduction that does not include recombining the genotypes of two parents


an animal that mainly eats meat


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


used loosely to describe any group of organisms living together or in close proximity to each other - for example nesting shorebirds that live in large colonies. More specifically refers to a group of organisms in which members act as specialized subunits (a continuous, modular society) - as in clonal organisms.

  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.

humans benefit economically by promoting tourism that focuses on the appreciation of natural areas or animals. Ecotourism implies that there are existing programs that profit from the appreciation of natural areas or animals.


animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature


union of egg and spermatozoan


having a body temperature that fluctuates with that of the immediate environment; having no mechanism or a poorly developed mechanism for regulating internal body temperature.

internal fertilization

fertilization takes place within the female's body


A large change in the shape or structure of an animal that happens as the animal grows. In insects, "incomplete metamorphosis" is when young animals are similar to adults and change gradually into the adult form, and "complete metamorphosis" is when there is a profound change between larval and adult forms. Butterflies have complete metamorphosis, grasshoppers have incomplete metamorphosis.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


active during the night


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.

radial symmetry

a form of body symmetry in which the parts of an animal are arranged concentrically around a central oral/aboral axis and more than one imaginary plane through this axis results in halves that are mirror-images of each other. Examples are cnidarians (Phylum Cnidaria, jellyfish, anemones, and corals).


structure produced by the calcium carbonate skeletons of coral polyps (Class Anthozoa). Coral reefs are found in warm, shallow oceans with low nutrient availability. They form the basis for rich communities of other invertebrates, plants, fish, and protists. The polyps live only on the reef surface. Because they depend on symbiotic photosynthetic algae, zooxanthellae, they cannot live where light does not penetrate.

saltwater or marine

mainly lives in oceans, seas, or other bodies of salt water.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


non-motile; permanently attached at the base.

Attached to substratum and moving little or not at all. Synapomorphy of the Anthozoa


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


lives alone


uses touch to communicate


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.


animal constituent of plankton; mainly small crustaceans and fish larvae. (Compare to phytoplankton.)


Alvarado, E., R. Garcia, A. Acosta. 2003. Sexual reproduction of the reef-building coral Diploria labyrinthiformis (Scleractinia: Faviidae), in the Colombian Caribbean. Revista de Biología Tropical, 54: 859-868. Accessed June 22, 2011 at http://www.ots.ac.cr/tropiweb/attachments/volumes/vol52-4/05ALVARADO%20sex.pdf.

Bassim, K., P. Sammarco. 2002. Effects of temperature and ammonium on larval development and survivorship in a scleractinian coral (Diploria strigosa). Marine Biology, 142 (2): 241-252.

Cohen, A., S. Smith, M. McCartney, J. Etten. 2004. How brain corals record climate:an integration of skeletal structure, growth and chemistry of Diploria labyrinthiformis from Bermuda. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 271: 147-158.

Jones, J. 1977. Morphology and development of southeastern Florida patch reefs. International Coral Reef Symposium: 231-235.

Lang, J., H. Lasker, E. Gladfelter, P. Hallock, W. Jaap, F. Losada, R. Muller. 1992. Spatial and Temporal Variability During Periods of "Recovery" After Mass Bleaching On Western Atlantic Coral Reefs. American Zoologist, 32(6): 696-706.

Logan, A., L. Yang, T. Tomascik. 1994. Linear skeletal extension rates in two species of Diploria from high-latitude reefs in Bermuda. Coral Reefs, 13: 225-230. Accessed June 22, 2011 at http://www.botany.ubc.ca/people/tomascik/PDF_7.pdf.

Rosen, B., J. Darrell. 2011. "Diploria labyrinthiformis (grooved brain coral)" (On-line). Natural History Museum. Accessed June 22, 2011 at http://www.nhm.ac.uk/nature-online/species-of-the-day/biodiversity/climate-change/diploria-labyrinthiformis/index.html.

Rossi-Snook, K. 2011. "Grooved brain coral (Diploria labyrinthiformis)" (On-line). The Cephalopod Page. Accessed June 22, 2011 at http://www.thecephalopodpage.org/MarineInvertebrateZoology/Diplorialabyrinthiformis.html#References.

Smith, S. 1992. Patterns of coral recruitment and post-settlement mortality on Bermuda's reefs: comparisons to Caribbean and Pacific reefs. American Zooligist, 32: 663-673. Accessed June 22, 2011 at http://www.jstor.org/stable/3883647?seq=1.

Spalding, M. 2004. A Guide to the Coral Reefs of the Caribbean. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Sterrer, W. 1986. Wolfgang. 1986. Marine Fauna and Flora of Bermuda: A Systematic Guide to the Identification of Marine Organisms.. New York: John Wiley and Sons.