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Staghorn coral

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Staghorn coral
Staghorn coral.jpg
Scientific Classification
Binomial Name

Acropora cervicornis

Staghorn coral is a species of stony coral often called Antler coral because of its resemblance to antlers of a deer. It can be found in many shapes and forms such as : bushy, clustered, bottlebrushed, finger, table, columnar, and plate. It is found in a many different colors and can change colors while in a reef aquarium. It lives close to the surface for good sunlight. The crashing waves help to break apart the coral leaving it to reproduce asexually. Acropora corals are one of the fastest growing corals on a reef. But while it is one of the fastest growing corals, it is also one of the endangered corals. Because of the diseases carried by many of its hosts, water disturbances, and pollution its reproduction is quickly falling. For that reason this coral has become a main focus for scientists. They monitor the coral very closely to both make sure that no harm comes to the coral, and what they could do to prevent it from going completely extinct. [1]

Anatomy

Staghorn corals have cylindrical branches coming out of it that measure from three centimeters to six meters long in height. They grow anywhere in the ocean up to thirty feet in depth. At each tip of the branch there is a calcium skeleton that makes the coral very porous. The symbiotic algae zooxanthellae are creatures that live inside the staghorn coral that give it its nutrients through photosynthesis. It may also eat tiny plankton or other micro-organisms in the water to get extra nutrients even though it is not required. In order for it to live longer it requires extra nutrients such as calcium, strontium, and other elements in the water. [2]

It is known as the fastest growing coral in the western Atlantic, yet it was considered an endangered species in the year 2005. It is found through out the Florida keys, Bahamas, and the Caribbean Islands.
Great Barrier Reef

Reproduction

Sexual reproduction occurs when a sperm or eggs is released into the water around the months from August or September. Both male and female corals will release millions of sperm and egg into the ocean. Once united the larva will live among the plankton until they have found a suitable home. During this process many larva don't find homes and therefore will not survive past the larva stage. Given the correct environment the coral will accumulate rapidly. The staghorn requires lots of sun light, and a strong water current. The coral its self if very fragile, so the strong water current helps to break apart the coral leaving it to reproduce asexually.

Asexual reproduction occurs when a piece of coral is broken off and reattach itself to another substrate. This process tends to happen a lot when there is disturbance in the water and or storms. It does not however help the coral to get rid or diseases or bleaching episodes. [3]

Danger to the coral

A little yellow damselfish taking refuge in staghorn coral

Since the coral is so close to the surface many danger can happen to it. In the 1980's it was discovered that pollution was effecting the population of the corals. All from hurricanes, increased predation, bleaching, and many other things. All the sediment that landed on the coral effected the temperature leaving the coral to die. It was found that 98% of the corals population has decreased. Scientists have made an assumption that a coral snail could be spreading some of theses diseases. But for corals that live in places such as the Gulf of Mexico, they are destroyed by oil spills, and hypoxia. These pollutions not only kill coral but also many other types of marine life.[4]

During hurricanes there are two things that can happen to the coral.

  • First: is that the coral can be broken off and sent else where in the ocean. These corals have a calcium base rock but that does not stabalize the coral because of the its fragileness . The name antler coral tells alot on how the coral looks. If you think of antlers you think of long skinny branch type antlers. That is how the coral is too, long and thin. Scientists have discovered that the coral was designed for breaking off by currents and other disturbances. This process that God created helps the coral to both reproduce and migrate around the ocean. The corals growth however takens centuries because of its speed 1/4 inch a year.
  • Second: is the sand that is taken into the ocean or sturred up from the bottom lands on the coral. The coral gets rid of the sand by a layer of mucus that lays on the branches. If there is too much sand the coral cannot survive.[5]

Gallery

References