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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

The Elkhorn Coral, Acropora palmata, and the closely related Staghorn Coral, A. cervicornis, were the dominant shallow-water corals in the Caribbean for millions of years, yet over the past 30 years losses exceeding 97% of the population have led to the listing of these species as threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Disease is the primary cause of the drastic mortality in these corals; however, physical disturbance, predation, and coral bleaching have also contributed to their decline.  In the Caribbean, they are among the fastest growing and structurally complex corals, and they provide habitat to numerous organisms. One Carrie Bow Cay visiting scientist, Suzanne Arnold (University of Maine) tracked the growth of a new colony that had recently recruited to the reef. She photographed the colony every year from 2006-2012. You can see the results below.

Starting in June 2011, CCRE scientists began studying the demographics of the Acropora colonies surrounding the reef of Carrie Bow Cay. The purpose is to tag and map colonies and then track each colony’s growth and condition. Genetic analysis will help determine the genotypic diversity on the reef and to identify what genotypes may be susceptible to disease, predation, and bleaching. The findings from the reef at Carrie Bow will be compared to similar projects going on around the Caribbean and in Florida.

Click image to expand.

Time Series of a coral colony growth over 4 years.


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