Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

zooxanthellate
  • UNESCO-IOC Register of Marine Organisms
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Comprehensive Description

Biology: Skeleton

More info
AuthorSkeleton?Mineral or Organic?MineralPercent Magnesium
Veron, 2000 YES MINERAL ARAGONITE
Cairns, Hoeksema, and van der Land, 1999 YES MINERAL ARAGONITE
Crossland, 1952 YES MINERAL ARAGONITE
Utinomi, 1965 YES MINERAL ARAGONITE
Yabe and Sugiyama, 1935 YES MINERAL ARAGONITE
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Distribution

Range Description

In the Indo-West Pacific, this species is found in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, the southwest and central Indian Ocean, the Arabian/Iranian Gulf, the central Indo-Pacific, tropical Australia, southern Japan and the South China Sea, the oceanic west Pacific, and the central Pacific.
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Physical Description

Diagnostic Description

Description

Coralla form submassive structures, almost always seen with stout leafy or branch like appendages, or are masses of thick, angular leaves and anastomosing projections. Leaves are 3 to 10 mm thick, which is much thicker than in Pavona cactus, and calices are also larger, being about 2 to 3 mm diameter. The distribution of this species is similar to that of Pavona cactus, preferring gently sloping substrates and able to tolerate moderate sedimentation. It is common, but does not develop giant colonies in the manner of P. cactus (Sheppard, 1998). Colonies are thick, interconnecting, bifacial upright laminae, or are submassive, with or without lobed horizontal margins and upright laminae. Corallites are irregular, deep-seated, sometimes aligned parallel to margins or to radiating ridges. Colour: brown, creamy yellow or greenish. Abundance: common over a wide range of shallow-water environments (Veron, 1986). Colony of paddle-like upright fronds, about 5 mm thick and 3 cm long, comprised of irregularly-spaced corallites. Colour: orange or brown. Habitat: diverse, especially in areas of high sediment load. (Richmond, 1997)
  • Veron, J.E.N. (1986). Corals of Australia and the Indo-Pacific. Angus & Robertson Publishers, London.
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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
This species occurs in most reef environments. P. descussata is commonly found from 3-11 m, rarely from 12-15 m, in the South China Sea and Gulf of Siam (Titlyanov and Titlyanova 2002). It may form fields up to several meters across.

Systems
  • Marine
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Depth range based on 123 specimens in 1 taxon.
Water temperature and chemistry ranges based on 40 samples.

Environmental ranges
  Depth range (m): 0.5 - 18
  Temperature range (°C): 25.106 - 28.617
  Nitrate (umol/L): 0.088 - 0.923
  Salinity (PPS): 34.483 - 35.298
  Oxygen (ml/l): 4.544 - 4.742
  Phosphate (umol/l): 0.081 - 0.196
  Silicate (umol/l): 0.523 - 6.846

Graphical representation

Depth range (m): 0.5 - 18

Temperature range (°C): 25.106 - 28.617

Nitrate (umol/L): 0.088 - 0.923

Salinity (PPS): 34.483 - 35.298

Oxygen (ml/l): 4.544 - 4.742

Phosphate (umol/l): 0.081 - 0.196

Silicate (umol/l): 0.523 - 6.846
 
Note: this information has not been validated. Check this *note*. Your feedback is most welcome.

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Genomic DNA is available from 3 specimens with morphological vouchers housed at Queensland Museum
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
VU
Vulnerable

Red List Criteria
A4c

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2008

Assessor/s
Hoeksema, B., Rogers, A. & Quibilan, M.

Reviewer/s
Livingstone, S., Polidoro, B. & Smith, J. (Global Marine Species Assessment)

Contributor/s

Justification
This species is widespread and common throughout its range. However, it is susceptible to bleaching, and extensive reduction of coral reef habitat due to a combination of threats. Specific population trends are unknown but population reduction can be inferred from declines in habitat quality based on the combined estimates of both destroyed reefs and reefs at the critical stage of degradation within its range (Wilkinson 2004). Its threat susceptibility increases the likelihood of being lost within one generation in the future from reefs at a critical stage. Therefore, the estimated habitat degradation and loss of 36% over three generation lengths (30 years) is the best inference of population reduction and meets the threshold for Vulnerable under Criterion A4c. It will be important to reassess this species in 10 years time because of predicted threats from climate change and ocean acidification.
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Population

Population
This is a common species.

There is no species specific population information available for this species. However, there is evidence that overall coral reef habitat has declined, and this is used as a proxy for population decline for this species. This species is particularly susceptible to bleaching, disease, and other threats and therefore population decline is based on both the percentage of destroyed reefs and critical reefs that are likely to be destroyed within 20 years (Wilkinson 2004). We assume that most, if not all, mature individuals will be removed from a destroyed reef and that on average, the number of individuals on reefs are equal across its range and proportional to the percentage destroyed reefs. Reef losses throughout the species' range have been estimated over three generations, two in the past and one projected into the future.

The age of first maturity of most reef building corals is typically three to eight years (Wallace 1999) and therefore we assume that average age of mature individuals is greater than eight years. Furthermore, based on average sizes and growth rates, we assume that average generation length is 10 years, unless otherwise stated. Total longevity is not known, but likely to be more than ten years. Therefore any population decline rates for the Red List assessment are measured over at least 30 years. Follow the link below for further details on population decline and generation length estimates.

Population Trend
Unknown
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Threats

Major Threats
The total number of corals (live and raw) exported for this species in 2005 was eight.

In general, the major threat to corals is global climate change, in particular, temperature extremes leading to bleaching and increased susceptibility to disease, increased severity of ENSO events and storms, and ocean acidification.

Coral disease has emerged as a serious threat to coral reefs worldwide and a major cause of reef deterioration (Weil et al. 2006). The numbers of diseases and coral species affected, as well as the distribution of diseases have all increased dramatically within the last decade (Porter et al. 2001, Green and Bruckner 2000, Sutherland et al. 2004, Weil 2004). Coral disease epizootics have resulted in significant losses of coral cover and were implicated in the dramatic decline of acroporids in the Florida Keys (Aronson and Precht 2001, Porter et al. 2001, Patterson et al. 2002). In the Indo-Pacific, disease is also on the rise with disease outbreaks recently reported from the Great Barrier Reef (Willis et al. 2004), Marshall Islands (Jacobson 2006) and the northwestern Hawaiian Islands (Aeby 2006). Increased coral disease levels on the GBR were correlated with increased ocean temperatures (Willis et al. 2007) supporting the prediction that disease levels will be increasing with higher sea surface temperatures. Escalating anthropogenic stressors combined with the threats associated with global climate change of increases in coral disease, frequency and duration of coral bleaching and ocean acidification place coral reefs in the Indo-Pacific at high risk of collapse.

Localized threats to corals include fisheries, human development (industry, settlement, tourism, and transportation), changes in native species dynamics (competitors, predators, pathogens and parasites), invasive species (competitors, predators, pathogens and parasites), dynamite fishing, chemical fishing, pollution from agriculture and industry, domestic pollution, sedimentation, and human recreation and tourism activities.

The severity of these combined threats to the global population of each individual species is not known.
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
All corals are listed on CITES Appendix II. Parts of the species’ range fall within Marine Protected Areas.

Recommended measures for conserving this species include research in taxonomy, population, abundance and trends, ecology and habitat status, threats and resilience to threats, restoration action; identification, establishment and management of new protected areas; expansion of protected areas; recovery management; and disease, pathogen and parasite management. Artificial propagation and techniques such as cryo-preservation of gametes may become important for conserving coral biodiversity.
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