Scientists have discovered a new coral reef species from the remote Gambier Islands in French Polynesia. The new species Echinophyllia tarae is common in the lagoon of Gambier Islands, its occurrence elsewhere is unknown. Echinophyllia tarae lives in protected reef habitats and was observed between 5 and 20 metres depth. It is a zooxanthellate species which commonly grows on dead coral fragments, which are also covered by crustose coralline algae and fleshy macroalgae. The species can grow on well illuminated surfaces but also encrusts shaded underhangs and contributes to the formation of coral reefs in the Gambier.
It is characterised by large polyps and bright often mottled colourations and it is very plastic in morphology like most hard corals, according to a Pensoft statement. Patterns of partial death and recovery of the species were often observed and could be due to competition with other benthic invertebrates like the soft-bodied corallimorpharians or zoanthids which can co-occur with this species. The study was published in the journal Zookeys.