Lithothamnion tophiforme (Esper) Unger is a dominant, arctic, saxicolous species that extends southward, albeit with reduced cover, into the deeper colder waters of the North Atlantic subarctic, where it also occurs in significant rhodolith deposits with L. glaciale. The external appearance of L. tophiforme is distinctive, but typification, anatomy, reproduction, ecology, and biogeography have not been previously analyzed. These topics are now addressed, with extensive use of SEM, in comparison with other North Atlantic arctic and subarctic melobesioid genera and species. The species considered in this article comprise 95% of the coralline biomass of the colder North Atlantic and adjacent arctic (i.e. less than 12° C summer and less than 0° C winter). In the outer thallus region of coralline algae, crust extension proceeds, calcification develops, surface sloughing and grazing occur, and reproductive structures are initiated. Analysis of the ultrastructure of the outer thallus region (epithallium, meristem, and perithallium) of L. tophiforme shows distinctive generic similarities and specific differences from the other Lithothamnion species discussed here. Considerable generic differences from the Clathromorpum and Leptophytum species also encountered in the region considered are highlighted as well. We discuss the functional and taxonomic implications of these distinguishing features and recommend that they be more widely considered in future research on coralline algae to understand more fully the ecology and evolution of the Corallinales.