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The distribution, abundance and ecology of the blue coral Heliopora coerulea (Pallas) in the Pacific

Heliopora coerulea (Alcyonaria, Coenothecalia), widespread since the Cretaceous, is today found in the Indo-Western Pacific between 25° N and 25° S but is uncommon throughout most of its range. Studies around its reported southern and eastern limits of distribution (Great Barrier Reef, Vanuatu, Fiji, Tonga, Western Samoa, Tuvalu, Gilbert Group) suggest that ocean temperature (a lower marginal isotherm of 22°C), duration of larval life-span, prevailing currents, and the geological and climatic history of isolated archipelagoes determine distribution. Heliopora was found to be far more abundant in the equatorial Central Pacific sites (Tuvalu and Gilbert growps) than in the Western Pacific (Great Barrier Reef, New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Ponape, Palau). Heliopora comprised up to 16% of beach sediments in Tuvalu atolls, and was the dominant coral (averaging 40% of substrate between 6 m and 10 m on reef slopes) in coral assemblages on Tarawa Atoll. From ecological studies in Tarawa it is suggested that competition from the more specialized and aggressive Scleractinia (particularly Acroporidae and Faviidae) is the major factor limiting abundance in the equatorial Western Pacific.
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