Staghorn coral

Taxobox
name = Staghorn Coral



regnum = Animalia
phylum = Cnidaria
classis = Anthozoa
ordo = Scleractinia
familia = Acroporidae
genus = "Acropora"
species = "A. cervicornis"
binomial = "Acropora cervicornis"
binomial_authority = Lamarck, 1816

The Staghorn coral ("Acropora cervicornis") is a branching coral with cylindrical branches ranging from a few centimeters to over two meters in length and height. It occurs in back reef and fore reef environments from 0 to 30 m depth. The upper limit is defined by wave forces, and the lower limit is controlled by suspended sediments and light availability. Fore reef zones at intermediate depths (5-25 m) were formerly dominated by extensive single species stands of staghorn coral until the mid 1980s. This coral exhibits the fastest growth of all known western Atlantic corals, with branches increasing in length by 10-20 cm per year. This has been one of the three most important Caribbean corals in terms of its contribution to reef growth and fishery habitat.

Distribution

Staghorn coral is found throughout the Florida Keys, the Bahamas, and the Caribbean islands. This coral occurs in the western Gulf of Mexico, but is absent from U.S. waters in the Gulf of Mexico, as well as Bermuda and the west coast of South America. The northern limit is on the east coast of Florida, near Boca Raton.

Threats and concerns

The dominant mode of reproduction for staghorn corals is asexual with new colonies forming when branches break off a colony and reattach to the substrate. This life history trait allows rapid population recovery from physical disturbances such as storms. However, it makes recovery from disease or bleaching episodes (where entire colonies or even entire stands are killed) very difficult.

Sexual reproduction is via broadcast spawning of gametes into the water column once each year in August or September. Individual colonies are both male and female (simultaneous hermaphrodites) and will release millions of gametes. The coral larvae (planula) live in the plankton for several days until finding a suitable area to settle; unfortunately, very few larvae survive to settle and metamorphose into new colonies. The preponderance of asexual reproduction in this species raises the possibility that genetic diversity in the remnant populations may be very low. These uncertainties as to recruitment/recovery potential and genetic status are the bases for increased demographic concerns for this species.

Since 1980, populations have collapsed throughout their range from disease outbreaks, with losses compounded locally by hurricanes, increased predation, bleaching, and other factors. This species is also particularly susceptible to damage from sedimentation and sensitive to temperature and salinity variation. Populations have declined by up to 98% throughout the range, and localized extirpations have occurred.

ESA listing history

On March 4, 2004, the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned NMFS to list elkhorn ("Acropora palmata"), staghorn ("A. cervicornis"), and fused-staghorn ("A. prolifera") coral under the ESA. On June 23, 2004, NOAA Fisheries found that listing these species may be warranted and initiated a formal review of their biological status. NMFS convened the Atlantic Acropora Biological Review Team (BRT) to summarize the best available scientific and commercial data available for these species in the status review report.

The BRT completed the status review March 3, 2005. On March 18, 2005, NMFS determined that elkhorn and staghorn corals warrant listing as "threatened" species under the ESA. However, NMFS also concluded that listing fused-staghorn coral is not warranted, as it is a hybrid and does not constitute a species as defined under the ESA. On May 9, 2005, NMFS proposed adding elkhorn coral to the not endangered special list.

Reefkeeping

"Acropora cervicornis" is currently not available in the aquarium trade as it is illegal to collect Caribbean species.

External links

* [http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/species/invertebrates/staghorn.htm Staghorn Coral ("Acropora cervicornis")]


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Look at other dictionaries:

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  • staghorn coral — any of several stony corals of the genus Acropora, having the skeleton branched like the antlers of a stag. Also, stag s horn coral. [1880 85, Amer.] * * * …   Universalium

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  • staghorn coral — stag′horn cor′al [[t]ˈstægˌhɔrn[/t]] n. ivt any of several stony corals of the genus Acropora, having the skeleton branched like antlers • Etymology: 1880–85 …   From formal English to slang

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  • staghorn — ˈ ̷ ̷ˌ ̷ ̷ noun 1. : a stag s horn used as a handle for a knife or for ornamental purposes 2. a. or staghorn moss : a club moss (Lycopodium clavatum) b. : staghorn fern …   Useful english dictionary

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