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About The Staghorn coral

Context:

A genome-wide survey of highly endangered staghorn coral in the Caribbean has identified 10 genomic regions associated with resilience against white band disease.

Relevance:

GS III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Staghorn Coral
  2. White Band Disease

Staghorn Coral

  • Staghorn coral is a vital coral species found in the Caribbean region.
  • Along with elkhorn coral and star corals, it has played a crucial role in building Caribbean coral reefs over the past 5,000 years.
  • These corals can form dense clusters called “thickets” in shallow waters, serving as essential habitat for various reef creatures, especially fish.
Appearance
  • Staghorn coral colonies have a golden tan or pale brown color with white tips, deriving their hues from the algae residing within their tissues.
  • They have distinctive antler-like branches that radiate from a central trunk and curve upwards.
  • Each colony consists of numerous individual polyps that grow together. These corals obtain nutrients from photosynthetic algae within their cells and also capture plankton with their tentacles.
Distribution
  • Staghorn coral thrives in clear, shallow waters, typically found at depths of 15 to 60 feet. Its habitat stretches across the Bahamas, Florida, and the Caribbean.
  • Its northernmost Atlantic range extends to Palm Beach County, Florida, although it remains relatively rare in this region.
  • Staghorn coral inhabits various coral reef environments, including spur and groove, bank reef, patch reef, transitional reef, limestone ridges, terraces, and hard bottom habitats.
Lifespan & Reproduction
  • These corals reach reproductive maturity when they are around 7 inches tall.
  • Staghorn coral is a simultaneous hermaphrodite, producing both eggs and sperm. However, it usually avoids self-fertilization.
  • Reproduction occurs once annually after the full moon in late summer when colonies release eggs and sperm into the water (broadcast spawning). Fertilized eggs develop into larvae, settle on hard surfaces, and establish new colonies.
Threats
  • Climate Change: Staghorn coral faces the impacts of climate change, including rising sea temperatures and ocean acidification.
  • Diseases: It is particularly susceptible to diseases like white band and white plague.
  • Unsustainable Fishing Pressure: Overfishing can harm the reef ecosystem, affecting staghorn coral indirectly.

White Band Disease

  • White band disease is a common coral tissue loss disease.
  • Although studies suggest it is caused by a communicable agent, a specific pathogen responsible for the disease has not yet been definitively identified.

-Source: The Hindu


June 2024
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