Zooxanthellae in different stages of two opposite processes, degradation and proliferation, were found in the planulae of hermatypic corals. The formation of new zooxanthellae is balanced by degraded zooxanthellae in newly released planulae. The number of dividing zooxanthellae and degraded zooxanthellae during the day amounted to approximately 2 to 3% of the standing stock. In settled planulae and particularly in motionless planulae of Stylophora pistillata (Esper, 1797), the degraded zooxanthellae outnumbered proliferous zooxanthellae. The proliferation and degradation of zooxanthellae and the extrusion of degraded remnants of zooxanthellae are significantly phased. Swimming planulae are more autotrophic than motionless planulae. The physiological parameters of settled planulae with exoskeleton are similar to those of adult polyps. The significance of zooxanthella degradation in the vital functions of planulae is discussed. We suggest that the degradation of zooxanthellae in planulae occurs by the digestion of symbionts by host cells.