Plesiastrea versipora is a hermatypic coral with a distribution that extends to the southern limit for hermatypic corals. The normal annual temperature range for this coral in Port Phillip Bay (Victoria) (approximately 10-21 degrees C) is well below the physiological optimum for the majority of hermatypic corals (25-29 degrees C). The rate of photosynthesis and respiration in Plesiastrea generally increased with temperature before levelling out at the higher temperatures, with Q(10) data suggesting that both photosynthesis and respiration in Plesiastrea acclimate to changing temperatures. Respiration showed a similar trend to photosynthesis, with respect to temperature, but with a slightly lower rate of increase. Photosynthetic rate in Plesiastrea is comparable with that of reef corals despite lower temperatures and irradiance. When expressed as a function of chlorophyll a content photosynthesis approached perfect temperature compensation with prolonged exposure to various temperatures. Temperature-dependent changes with chlorophyll content may be responsible for temperature related changes in photosynthetic rate. This may be a mechanism for stabilising the symbiotic relationship over a wide temperature range. Autotrophic ability, estimated from photosynthesis/respiration (P/R) ratios, was greatest at higher temperatures and was only slightly less than that of reef corals. At low temperatures Plesiastrea may be dependent on heterotrophic feeding.