BACKGROUND:Despite the biological and economic significance of scleractinian reef-building corals, the lack of large molecular datasets for a representative range of species limits understanding of many aspects of their biology. Within the Scleractinia, based on molecular evidence, it is generally recognised that there are two major clades, Complexa and Robusta, but the genomic bases of significant differences between them remain unclear. RESULTS:Draft genome assemblies and annotations were generated for three coral species: Galaxea fascicularis (Complexa), Fungia sp., and Goniastrea aspera (Robusta). Whilst phylogenetic analyses strongly support a deep split between Complexa and Robusta, synteny analyses reveal a high level of gene order conservation between all corals, but not between corals and sea anemones or between sea anemones. HOX-related gene clusters are, however, well preserved across all of these combinations. Differences between species are apparent in the distribution and numbers of protein domains and an apparent correlation between number of HSP20 proteins and stress tolerance. Uniquely amongst animals, a complete histidine biosynthesis pathway is present in robust corals but not in complex corals or sea anemones. This pathway appears to be ancestral, and its retention in the robust coral lineage has important implications for coral nutrition and symbiosis. CONCLUSIONS:The availability of three new coral genomes enabled recognition of a de novo histidine biosynthesis pathway in robust corals which is only the second identified biosynthetic difference between corals. These datasets provide a platform for understanding many aspects of coral biology, particularly the interactions of corals with their endosymbionts.