- The Paleontological Society
Heliophyllum halli contains highly variable, mostly solitary rugose corals. Specimens reported here come from shaly beds of the Middle Devonian Hamilton Group in New York State. Early recognition of morphotype variation led James Hall to establish numerous species in the H. halli group that were later interpreted by John Wells in terms of varying life history. Life on unstable and/or soft substrates was facilitated for these corals by talons, root-like structures that allowed larval settling and post-larval development on hard particles such as echinoderm or shell debris. Variation in subsequent growth history is reflected in corallum shape and change in diameter. Straight growth axes reflect partial burial accompanied by vertical growth, while growth axis curvature resulted from unequal settling into substrate or alternatively, life at the surface of substrate, with sharp bends (geniculations) reflecting major changes in growth orientation. Decrease in diameter resulted from environmental stress, with greatest effects on the peripheral portion of the calice. Other major reactions to increased burial rate (through sinking or increased sedimentation) are epithecal secretion to form an outer wall for isolation of itself from surrounding sediment or decrease in polyp size as shown by terminal shrinking of the corallum diameter, at times nearly to zero. Yonge's (1940) summary of observations on living coral polyps suggests that the living H. halli was nonzooxanthellate, with an efficient system of feeding that utilized its multitude of tentacles without the help of cilia, which thus were able to generate currents to promote efficient sediment cleansing. Sediment shedding would also have been aided by polypal distension (swelling) above a reflexed calical margin.