Staghorn Coral Facts
- This distinctive marine invertebrate most frequently goes by the unique, but descriptive, common name of the Staghorn Coral. Unlike the majority of species, for the moment, this marvel does not possess any other generally accepted common name.
- Among scientific professionals, however, it’s typically referred to by its technical name. Fortunately, that’s a relatively simple term, at least as such things go. That’s because this remarkable creature bears the formal name of the Acropora cervicornis.
- It received this formal name due to the work of the respected French naturalist, Jean-Baptiste Pierre Antoine de Monet. He made the first official recognition of the creature as a separate and distinct species. This scientifically noteworthy event occurred in 1816.
- Unfortunately, though, the population of this wonderful species has been declining rapidly since around 1970. This further seems to hold true throughout the entirety of its range. The IUCN, therefore, now lists the animal as Critically Endangered.
- Multiple projects to attempt to preserve the Staghorn Coral, however, remain underway. The aptly-named Coral Restoration Foundation, along with other organizations, spearhead most of these. Sadly, however, results have so far been minimal.
- This product of evolution also faces threats from numerous factors. These include a particularly virulent coral disease. Pollution of its habitat also constitutes a severe danger. The greatest threat it faces, however, most likely consists of climate change.
Staghorn Coral Physical Description
The magnificent Staghorn Coral easily fascinates those fortunate enough to encounter it. It also does this in several ways. That’s due to the unique fact that, unlike some of its kindred, this product of Nature and evolution impresses in both size and overall appearance.
Although corals come in all shapes and sizes, this one perhaps ranks among the most unusual. That’s due to its evolved pattern of physical development. This member of its Order manifest numerous cylindrical, upward growing branches, not unlike some trees.
These further develop as highly elongated, comparatively thin structures. Each of these also branches out, often having multiple smaller branches. Depending on the age of the individual these vary in length from as little as 2 in (5 cm), to more than 6.5 ft (2 m).
Among older specimens of the Staghorn Coral, these same branching structures also attain an average thickness measuring 1 – 3 in ( 2.5 – 7.5 cm). These same portions of the coral typically angle upward, and rise upward from a single, comparatively hard trunk.
As a general principle, the marvelous Cnidaria additionally displays a remarkably consistent pattern of coloration. This mainly consists of either a pale brown or golden tan shade. That’s further enhanced, however, by the presence of comparatively short, bright white tips.
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Cnidaria
- Class: Hexacorallia
- Order: Scleractinia
- Family: Acroporidae
- Genus: Acropora
- Species: A. cervicornis
Staghorn Coral Distribution, Habitat, and Ecology
Unfortunately, both for the Staghorn Coral itself, and for those who appreciate Nature, it inhabits a relatively limited portion of the marine waters of the world. Research also indicates that the species never possessed a more extensive zone of habitation.
That habitat range includes a small portion of the northern Atlantic Ocean. The most northerly part of that range, though, only extends to the east coast of Florida, in the United States. From there, it extends to the Bahamas and the Caribbean Islands.
A limited, disjointed population also appears in the western Gulf of Mexico. In all areas in which it lives, however, it displays the same, decidedly clear preference for where it makes its home. It generally appears in reefs, with other corals, rarely appearing alone.
Yet the wonder of Nature also displays a strong preference for extremely shallow depths. This usually places it close to the shoreline. More precisely, it sometimes lives directly at the shoreline. At its deepest, though, it’s never seen at depths of more than 98 ft (30 m).
Another aspect of its nature also distinguishes the Staghorn Coral from most of its brethren. That’s due to the fact that it displays the fastest known growth rate of all corals of its type in its region. Its many branches often grow as much as 7.9 in (20 cm) per year.
This marine marvel alsp reproduces both asexually and sexually, with the former being the dominant method. This occurs when branches break off and reattach to the ocean floor. Sexual reproduction, however, also happens, typically in either August or September.