Marine Biology, 77: 221-227. Corals also eat by catching tiny floating animals called zooplankton. Coral bleaching is the loss of the algae that live in coral tissue. It is in this way that the coral truly displays its relation to anemones and jellies, which can also sting when touched. As their name suggests, elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata) grow in a branching pattern similar to the horns of an elk.The branches of elkhorn and related staghorn corals (Acropora cervicornis) provide critical habitat for other reef organisms in the Caribbean Sea. (Adey, 1975; Bak, 1983), Elkhorn coral reaches its maximum size at 10 to 12 years old. Elkhorn coral produce hard antler-like structures composed of calcium carbonate. To do this, the coral uses fine hairs, called nematocysts, to reach out and sting prey before gathering it in. What Do Corals Eat? Coral reefs are among the most valuable ecosystems on Earth. breeding is confined to a particular season. Millions of male and female gametes are released into the water at the same time (usually synchronized with other adjacent colonies). Fireworms (such as Hermodice carunculata) and corallivorous snail species in the family Coralliophilidae range over the coral colony grazing on polyps. (National Marine Fisheries Service, 2008; NOAA Fisheries, 2002), Elkhorn coral is a major component of many reef ecosystems. It is the second largest ocean in the world after the Pacific Ocean. As it is a keystone species and ecosystem engineer, its endangerment threatens many other coral reef species. Through this process, and as a result of its fairly rapid growth rate, the elkhorn coral was historically responsible for building large areas of Caribbean Reefs. Staghorn coral nursery run by Mote Marine Laboratory, it is much harder to do this wive slow growing ‘massive’ corals. non-motile; permanently attached at the base. and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Unfortunately, it has recently suffered a similar fate and is also critically endangered. But fast is relative in the coral world; a colony of staghorn coral may only grow four inches (10 cm) per year. Bythell, J., E. Gladfelter, M. Bythell. (National Marine Fisheries Service, 2008; NOAA Fisheries, 2002), The presence of elkhorn coral has several major economic implications for humans. NOAA Fisheries, 2002. The staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis) is a branching, stony coral with cylindrical branches ranging from a few centimetres to over two metres in length and height. Sign up today to get weekly updates and action alerts from Oceana. Grodsky, S. and J. Jeon 2009. These predators include many species of damselfish (Pomacentridae), which suck and pluck the coral polyps out of the coral body. Examples are cnidarians (Phylum Cnidaria, jellyfish, anemones, and corals). Those that do, metamorphose into the polyp stage. Coral reefs are found in warm, shallow oceans with low nutrient availability. Among branching elkhorn coral and vibrantly-colored sponges is an ecosystem of macro- and microorganisms cycling nutrients, protecting shorelines, and producing natural products used in medicine. Being static, they wait for prey to come to them and then catch them using stinging cells, known as nematocysts, present on their tentacles. Cool facts. Elkhorn coral is a tropical species and inhabits waters with a temperature range of 66 tol 86 degrees F. This coral tolerates salinities within the normal range of 33 to 37 parts per thousand. Pollution, climate change and other stressors cause the algae to be expelled from the coral’s tissues, which makes them lose their major source of food and their colour – a process called coral bleaching. The coral has native populations throughout this range, most notably in the Bahamas and the Caribbean. On a full moon in August or September, the polyps will release gametes; this is an indication of perception of light (length of day), temperature, and nightime light from the moon. Elkhorn coral is a prominent Caribbean reef-building coral, although current populations are still struggling to recover from white band disease or outbreak. Ecotourism in the Caribbean relies on healthy reefs, with not only healthy coral, but a healthy ecosystem full of interesting things to see such as fish and other marine animals. The number one threat for coral reefs globally is climate change. Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes). Prey are pulled into the polyps’ mouths and digested in their stomachs. For example, the release of gametes for breeding occurs with all polyps at the same time per breeding season. Like most shallow-water corals, elkhorn corals have symbiotic algae living within their cells, providing the corals with excess energy that they make via photosynthesis (the use of sunlight to convert carbon dioxide into food/energy). They are seen mainly in the warmer regions of the oceans (Shedd, 2011). Size:35.3 centimeters Few larvae actually survive. All Acropora have similar needs as far as strong light, a surge like strong water flow and need to be kept out of reach of aggressive corals. Attached to substratum and moving little or not at all. This food provides them with additional energy and provides their symbiotic algae with the necessary nutrients to continue to generate food. Bak, R. 1983. Estimates are in the range of 90-95% reduction in abundance since 1980 in areas where loss has been quantified. Atoll Resource Bulletin, 187: 1-67. Elkhorn coral is present in coral reefs from southern Florida southward to the northern coasts of Venezuela. 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