Among symbiotic associations, cases of pseudo-auto-epizoism, in which a species uses a resembling but not directly related species as substrate, are poorly documented in coral reef ecosystems. In the present study, we assessed the distribution of an association between the hydrocorals Stylaster roseus and Millepora alcicornis on about 50% of coral reef sites studied in Bonaire, southern Caribbean. Although previously thought to be uncommon, associations between the lace coral S. roseus and the fire coral M. alcicornis were observed at both the windward and leeward sides of Bonaire, mainly between 15 and 25 m depth, reaching a maximum occupation of 47 S. roseus colonies on a single M. alcicornis colony. Both species’ tissues did not show any signs of injuries, while an in-depth inspection of the contact points of their skeletons revealed that both partners can partially overgrow each other. How it is possible that S. roseus is able to settle on the stinging tissue of Millepora as well as how, by contrast, the latter may facilitate the lace coral by o ering a certain degree of protection are questions that deserve further investigations
Scleractinian reef corals have been acknowledged as the most numerous host group for associated hydroids belonging to the genus Zanclea. To date, their geographical distribution is known to include several Indo-Pacific regions. During the Statia Marine Biodiversity Expedition to St. Eustatius (Lesser Antilles, Dutch Caribbean), the Zanclea-coral association was observed for the first time for the Caribbean Sea as well as for the Atlantic Ocean. Our findings confirm that the biodiversity associated with coral reefs remains insufficiently explored worldwide.