Tabulata Milne-Edwards et Haime, 1850

Tabulate corals

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.

Selection of related publications
Toom, U., Vinn, O., Hints, O. 2019. Ordovician and Silurian ichnofossils from carbonate facies in Estonia: A collection-based review. Palaeoworld 28, 1-2, 123-144. DOI:10.1016/j.palwor.2018.07.001
Liang, K., Elias, R. J., Lee, D. 2019. Morphometrics, growth characteristics, and phylogenetic implications of Halysites catenularius (Tabulata, Silurian, Estonia). Journal of Paleontology 93, 2, 215-231. DOI:10.1017/jpa.2018.73
Vinn, O., Liang, K., Toom, U. 2017. Endobiotic rugose coral symbionts in Silurian tabulate corals from Estonia (Baltica). Palaios 32, 3, 158-165. DOI:10.2110/palo.2016.084
Zatoń, M., Vinn, O., Toom, U. 2016. A new microconchid species from the Silurian of Baltica. Estonian Journal of Earth Sciences 65, 2, 115-123. DOI:10.3176/earth.2016.09
Vinn, O., Wilson, M. A., Mõtus, M.-A. 2014. Symbiotic endobiont biofacies in the Silurian of Baltica. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 404, 24-29. DOI:10.1016/j.palaeo.2014.03.041
Kershaw, S., Mõtus, M. 2014. Palaeoecology of Corals and Stromatoporoids in an Upper Silurian Biostrome in Estonia. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 61, 1, 33-50. DOI:10.4202/app.00094.2014
Liang, K., Lee, D.-J., Elias, R. J., Pärnaste, H., Mõtus, M.-A. 2013. Growth characteristics of Protoheliolites norvegicus (Tabulata; Upper Ordovician; Estonia). Palaeontology 56, 4, 867-891. DOI:10.1111/pala.12022
Vinn, O., Mõtus, M.-A. 2012. New endobiotic cornulitid and Cornulites sp. aff. Cornulites celatus (Cornulitida, Tentaculita) from the Katian of Vormsi Island, Estonia. GFF 134, 1, 3-6. DOI:10.1080/11035897.2011.647067
Mõtus, M.-A., Zaika, Y. 2012. The oldest heliolitids from the early Katian of the East Baltic region. GFF 134, 3, 225-234. DOI:10.1080/11035897.2012.721805
Kaljo, D., Männik, P., Martma, T., Nõlvak, J. 2012. More about the Ordovician-Silurian transition beds at Mirny Creek, Omulev Mountains, NE Russia: carbon isotopes and conodonts. Estonian Journal of Earth Sciences 61, 4, 277-294. DOI:10.3176/earth.2012.4.07
Vinn, O., Mõtus, M.-A. 2012. Diverse early endobiotic coral symbiont assemblage from the Katian (Late Ordovician) of Baltica. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 321-322, , 137-141. DOI:10.1016/j.palaeo.2012.01.028
Vinn, O., Wilson, M. A. 2012. Encrustation and bioerosion on late Sheinwoodian (Wenlock, Silurian) stromatoporoids from Saaremaa, Estonia. Carnets de Géologie 12, 2, 183-191. DOI:10.4267/2042/47551
Mõtus, M.-A., Vinn, O. 2009. The worm endosymbionts in tabulate corals from the Silurian of Podolia, Ukraine. Estonian Journal of Earth Sciences 58, 3, 185-192. DOI:10.3176/earth.2009.3.03
Vinn, O., Mõtus, M.-A. 2008. The earliest endosymbiotic mineralized tubeworms from the Silurian of Podolia, Ukraine. Journal of Paleontology 82, 2, 409-414. DOI:10.1666/07-056.1
Mõtus, M.-A. & Hints, O. (eds) 2007. 10th International Symposium on Fossil Cnidaria and Porifera. Excursion B2: Lower Paleozoic geology and corals of Estonia. Excursion Guidebook.
Mõtus, M.-A., Grytsenko, V. 2007. Morphological variation of the tabulate coral Paleofavosites cf. collatatus Klaamann, 1961 from the Silurian of the Bagovichka River localities, Podolia (Ukraine). Estonian Journal of Earth Sciences 56, 3, 143-156. DOI:
Mõtus, M.-A. 2006. Intraspecific variation in Wenlock tabulate corals from Saaremaa (Estonia) and its taxonomic implications. Proceedings of the Estonian Academy of Sciences. Geology 55, 1, 24-42.
Jeppsson, L., Calner, M. & Eriksson, M. 2005. Locality descriptions . The Dynamic Silurian Earth. Subcommision on Silurian Stratigraphy Field Meeting 2005. , pp. 22-47.
Young, G. A. & Kershaw, S. 2005. Classification and controls of internal banding in Palaeozoic stromatoporoids and colonial corals. Palaeontology 48, 3, 623-651. DOI:10.1111/j.1475-4983.2005.00480.x
Mõtus, M.-A., Sandström, O. 2005. Cystihalysites sp. and its significance to biostratigraphy and event stratigraphy in the Ludlow (Late Silurian) of Gotland, Sweden. GFF 127, 4, 269-272. DOI:10.1080/11035890501274269
Mõtus, M.-A. 2004. Tabulate corals from the Lower Silurian of Jämtland (Sweden). GFF 126, 4, 339-352. DOI:10.1080/11035890401264339
Mõtus, M.-A. 2001. Environment related morphological variation in Early Silurian tabulate corals from the Baltic area. Bulletin of the Tohoku University Museum , 1, 62-69.
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Mõtus, M.-A., Klaamann, E. 1999. The halysitid coral genera Halysites and Cystihalysites from Gotland, Sweden. GFF 121, 2, 81-91. DOI:10.1080/11035899901212081
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