This week’s endangered species is staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis)(photo from NOAA's Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary). This fast-growing coral can reach lengths of 6.5 feet and can reproduce both asexually (by breaking off pieces of itself) or sexually (through broadcast spawning). Corals are animals and thus eat other animals caught in their tentacles, but they also have a symbiotic relationship with algae, taking advantage of the products of algae’s photosynthesis – very clever lifestyle indeed! The staghorn are tropical corals found in the Atlantic ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico. The biggest threat to this species of coral is disease, but hurricanes, predation, bleaching, temperature and salinity variation, and low genetic diversity (that’s what happens when you reproduce asexually) are also threats.
NOAA has proposed elevating the threat status of the staghorn coral from “threatened” to “endangered”, along with 66 other species of coral – see NOAA’s report. Want to learn more about coral and coral reefs? Check out the IMAX movie on coral reefs – reviewed by Greenmomster! And be sure to check out this video from World Resources Institute:
NOAA Fisheries Office of Protected Resources. 2012. Staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis). Accessed 12/5/2012. http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/species/invertebrates/staghorncoral.htm