A total of 237 species of azooxanthellate Scleractinia are reported for the Australian region, including seamounts off the eastern coast. This study was based on approximately 5500 previously unreported specimens collected from 500 localities, as well as a re-examination of most of the types and previously reported specimens from the Australian region.
Compared to all azooxanthellate species, those from Australia
have a slightly higher percentage of species that are solitary and unattached (or transversely dividing), due to a disproportionate number of species in the families Flabellidae and Turbinoliidae. Bathymetrically they are typical of the worldwide fauna. Sixty-seven species are endemic to the Australian region.
Azooxanthellate corals comprise half of the species and genera of the order Scleractinia (Cairns, 1999b), and, with the publication of this paper, consist of 703 species. Two hundred thirty-seven species, or one-third, of the azooxanthellate species occur off Australia
, making it one of the richest regions in the world for this type of coral. The purpose of this paper was not to re-describe the azooxanthellate coral fauna of Australia
, as most of the species have been adequately described and figured within the last 15 years in papers about the Australian fauna or adjacent regions (Cairns, 1989a, 1994, 1995, 1998, 1999a; Cairns & Parker, 1992; Cairns & Zibrowius, 1997). Instead, the primary purpose is to document and verify all previously published records of the 237 Australian azooxanthellate species in the form of annotated synonymies, to augment these reports with additional records from the various Australian museums, and to list deposition of types and type localities for all species. This exhaustive compilation then provides the basis for a meaningful zoogeographic analysis of this fauna, the second goal of the paper.