Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Elkhorn Coral

Acropora palmata
Elkhorn Coral is a very large, very fast growing Coral that can be found in the Caribbean waters, at depths of up to 30m. because of their fast growth they make wonderful reef builders, and have massive branches that can grow well over 6ft a piece. These branches resemble antlers, hence the name.

Elkhorn Coral reproduce asexually. Branches of it break off and form new colonies after the reattach in the substrate. They reproduce sexually as well, spawning millions of gametes into the water column once a year. The resulting larvae (if they live long enough) can then form new colonies. Sexual reproduction exists int he species so that there is genetic diversity. However, so few larvae survive that is expected that the diversity is actually very low at this point, with most new Coral colonies created asexually.

Like many of the animals we have been talking about in the past few days, Elkhorn Coral is also dangerously close to extinction. In some locations they have declined by 80-90% since 1980. This is due to disease, bleaching, natural disasters, changes in water quality, and the aforementioned low genetic diversity. The population is being managed, and restoration efforts are taking place... though with mixed results.

IUCN Status : Critically Endangered
Location : Caribbean Sea
Size : Diameter up to 12ft (3.7m)
Classification : Phylum : Cnidaria -- Class : Anthozoa -- Order : Scleractinia
Family : Acroporidae -- Genus : Acropora -- Species : A. palmata

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