Tabulate corals
Subclass Tabulata Milne-Edwards et Haime, 1850

et: põhik-korallid; sv: tabulater; fi: levykorallit;

Taxon ID: 47 / 2018-12-10
Belongs to: Anthozoa
Sister taxa: Octocorallia | Rugosa
Contains: Chaetetida | Tetradiida | Sarcinulida | Favositida | Heliolitida | Auloporida
Stratigraphic range: Ordovician Permian | ~ 488,3–251,0 Ma
Baltoscandian species (in database): 334

Taxon overview


Tabulates, subclass or order Tabulata, are extinct corals of anthozoans. Tabulates, unlike rugosans, were always colonial organisms. They have simple calcareous skeleton, colonies consisting of prismatic or tube-like corallites communicating by mural pores or pore channels or tunnels. Polyps lived inside corallites as chambers with base-like tabulae below and septal spines or laminar septa on sides protruding from the corallite wall. Tabulate corals are taxonomically complicated because of their simplicity.  Favositids are characterized by closely packed corallites with mural-pores and their morphology is so variable that it differs even within a colony. Heliolitids are more complicated because of their coenenchymal tissue between corallites, which consists of tiny tubes - tubuli or wavy dissepiments. Halysitids are similar with having often coenenchyme, but their corallites are enclosed into ranks of various shape and size. Syringoporids form fasciculate colonies consisting of tubes having little space around and being connected by pore tunnels. Auloporids are reptant forms encrusting other organisms, as a small horny network.      


Tabulate corals occurred in the Ordovician Period of America and Siberia, much earlier than in Baltoscandia. The first appearances of tabulates Lyopora, Eoflecheria, Saffordophyllum and Protaraea in Baltica are known from the level of the Oandu Stage. Estonia is rich in Ordovician and Silurian tabulates, which are easy to find in localities of Hiiumaa, Vormsi and Saaremaa. Quarries in mainland are nice places to observe tabulates in their living position.

Investigation methods

Tabulates are large, but their finer taxonomy is observed only from peels and thin-sections. Normally pair of thin-sections is made from transverse and vertical directions of colony growth. Peel is an acetate replica from the polished and etched surface of the colony cut. Thin-sections are thin pieces of colonies, clued to glass and grinded down until 50 microns. Their scanned and photographed images are investigated later by using different software.

Role in geology

Tabulates are sessile organisms which preferred only shallow seas and are not mush useful in stratigraphy. They were spread on ancient oceans sporadically or formed bioherms or biostromes. Together with strtomatoporoids, rugosans and other fossils in the same community, they are informative in palaeoecology.  Sedimentological processes are readable also from the shape and growth details of such organisms.

Visual identification guide (Tabulata)


Selection of related publications

  • Liang et al., 2018. Morphometrics, growth characteristics, and phylogenetic implications of Halysites catenularius (Tabulata, Silurian, Estonia) [DOI]
  • Toom et al., 2018. Ordovician and Silurian ichnofossils from carbonate facies in Estonia: A collection-based review [DOI]
  • Vinn et al., 2017a. Endobiotic rugose coral symbionts in Silurian tabulate corals from Estonia (Baltica) [DOI]
  • Zatoń et al., 2016. A new microconchid species from the Silurian of Baltica [DOI]
  • Kershaw & Mõtus, 2016 . Palaeoecology of corals and stromatoporoids in a late Silurian biostrome in Estonia [DOI]
  • Vinn et al., 2014a. Symbiotic endobiont biofacies in the Silurian of Baltica [DOI]
  • Liang et al., 2013. Growth characteristics of Protoheliolites norvegicus (Tabulata; Upper Ordovician; Estonia) [DOI]
  • Vinn & Wilson, 2012a. Encrustation and bioerosion on late Sheinwoodian (Wenlock, Silurian) stromatoporoids from Saaremaa, Estonia [DOI]
  • Mõtus & Zaika, 2012. The oldest heliolitids from the early Katian of the East Baltic region [DOI]
  • Vinn & Mõtus, 2012b. Diverse early endobiotic coral symbiont assemblage from the Katian (Late Ordovician) of Baltica [DOI]
  • Vinn & Mõtus, 2012a. New endobiotic cornulitid and Cornulites sp. aff. Cornulites celatus (Cornulitida, Tentaculita) from the Katian of Vormsi Island, Estonia [DOI]
  • Kaljo et al., 2012b. More about the Ordovician-Silurian transition beds at Mirny Creek, Omulev Mountains, NE Russia: carbon isotopes and conodonts [DOI]
  • Mõtus & Vinn, 2009. The worm endosymbionts in tabulate corals from the Silurian of Podolia, Ukraine [DOI]
  • Vinn & Mõtus, 2008. The earliest endosymbiotic mineralized tubeworms from the Silurian of Podolia, Ukraine [DOI]
  • Mõtus & Hints, O., 2007. 10th International Symposium on Fossil Cnidaria and Porifera. Excursion B2: Lower Paleozoic geology and corals of Estonia. Excursion Guidebook
  • Mõtus & Grytsenko, 2007. Morphological variation of the tabulate coral Paleofavosites cf. collatatus Klaamann, 1961 from the Silurian of the Bagovichka River localities, Podolia (Ukraine) [DOI]
  • Mõtus, 2006. Intraspecific variation in Wenlock tabulate corals from Saaremaa (Estonia) and its taxonomic implications
  • Jeppsson et al., 2005. Locality descriptions
  • Young & Kershaw, 2005. Classification and controls of internal banding in Palaeozoic stromatoporoids and colonial corals [DOI]
  • Mõtus, 2004. Tabulate corals from the Lower Silurian of Jämtland (Sweden) [DOI]
  • Nestor, H. et al., 2001. Description of the type section, cyclicity, and correlation of the Riksu Formation (Wenlock, Estonia)
  • Mõtus, 2001. Environment related morphological variation in Early Silurian tabulate corals from the Baltic area
  • Mõtus & Klaamann, 1999. The halysitid coral genera Halysites and Cystihalysites from Gotland, Sweden [DOI]
  • Dixon, 1996. Heliolitine corals of the upper Douro Formation (upper Silurian), Canadian Arctic Islands. [DOI]
  • Serezhnikova, 1992. New Heliolitoidea from the lower Silurian of Central Kazakhstan
  • Bondarenko, 1992. The system of heliolitoids