Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

The polyps of Pocillopora corals are hermaphrodite; they each possess four sets of male and four sets of female gonads (2). Pocillopora can reproduce asexually as well as sexually. Unlike many corals, the coral larvae develop inside the polyps rather than in the water column. When the mature larvae are released into the water, the larvae can remain free-swimming for several weeks before settling on the substrate. They can even become partly polyp-like during this period, enabling feeding to occur before settling and commencing skeleton formation (2). Pocillopora can also successfully reproduce asexually via fragmentation (5). Pocillopora corals are hermatypic corals, and therefore have microscopic algae (zooxanthellae) living within their tissues. Through photosynthesis, these symbiotic algae produce energy-rich molecules that the coral polyps can use as nutrition (2). In return, the coral provides the zooxanthellae with protection, and access to sunlight. The wide geographic distribution of Pocillopora corals is probably due to rafting, whereby small colonies attach to floating objects, such as pumice, where they can travel great distance to remote places (3). The polyps can also obtain nutrition by capturing tiny prey using their tentacles.
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Description

This hardy, widespread and common coral can easily be identified by the presence of wart-like growths, called verrucae, which cover the colonies (2). The colonies can be fairly solid and dome-shaped, or branching with branches that are either flattened and blade-like, or fine and irregular (3). Species of Pocillopora corals vary greatly in appearance, depending on environmental conditions. For example, species situated on shallow reefs with heavy wave action are often stunted, whilst those in deep water are thin and open. The tentacles born on each polyp are usually only extended at night (2).
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Distribution

Range

Pocillopora corals are distributed widely in the Indian and Pacific Oceans (3).
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Physical Description

Diagnostic Description

Description

The genus is easily identified by the presence of wart-like growths, called 'verrucae', which cover the colonies. Corallites are immersed; they may be devoid of internal structures or have low solid columella and two unequal cycles of septa. The coenosteum is usually covered by granules. Polyps usually extended only at night (Veron, 1986). Members of this distinctive genus form branching colonies with characteristic wart-like growths, called verrucae. Identification to species level can be difficult. Three species are found in the W Indian Ocean (Richmond, 1997).
  • Veron, J.E.N. (1986). Corals of Australia and the Indo-Pacific. Angus & Robertson Publishers, London.
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Ecology

Habitat

Depth range based on 9887 specimens in 55 taxa.
Water temperature and chemistry ranges based on 8373 samples.

Environmental ranges
  Depth range (m): 0 - 4800
  Temperature range (°C): 1.157 - 29.290
  Nitrate (umol/L): 0.006 - 33.113
  Salinity (PPS): 32.106 - 36.340
  Oxygen (ml/l): 4.215 - 5.996
  Phosphate (umol/l): 0.062 - 2.333
  Silicate (umol/l): 0.523 - 128.969

Graphical representation

Depth range (m): 0 - 4800

Temperature range (°C): 1.157 - 29.290

Nitrate (umol/L): 0.006 - 33.113

Salinity (PPS): 32.106 - 36.340

Oxygen (ml/l): 4.215 - 5.996

Phosphate (umol/l): 0.062 - 2.333

Silicate (umol/l): 0.523 - 128.969
 
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Cauliflower corals occur in habitats ranging from exposed reef fronts to protected lagoons and lower reef slopes. One species, P. molokensis, occurs only in deep water (3).
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD) Stats
                                        
Specimen Records:34Public Records:9
Specimens with Sequences:15Public Species:3
Specimens with Barcodes:14Public BINs:1
Species:7         
Species With Barcodes:3         
          
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Barcode data

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Locations of barcode samples

Collection Sites: world map showing specimen collection locations for Pocillopora

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Conservation

Conservation Status

Status

Listed on Appendix II of CITES (1).
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Threats

Cauliflower corals face the many threats that are impacting coral reefs globally. It is estimated that 20 percent of the world's coral reefs have already been effectively destroyed and show no immediate prospects of recovery, and 24 percent of the world's reefs are under imminent risk of collapse due to human pressures. These human impacts include poor land management practices that are releasing more sediment, nutrients and pollutants into the oceans and stressing the fragile reef ecosystem. Over fishing has 'knock-on' effects that results in the increase of macro-algae that can out-compete and smother corals, and fishing using destructive methods physically devastates the reef. A further potential threat is the increase of coral bleaching events, as a result of global climate change (4). Another potential threat is over-harvesting. Pocillopora is one of four genera that constitute the majority of the dead coral trade. Indonesia and Fiji have export quotas for this coral, but in 1997, the amount of Pocillopora traded greatly exceeded the quota, showing a failure to regulate the trade (5). However, Pocillopora is thought to be fairly resilient to collection due to their success at asexual reproduction through fragmentation (5).
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Management

Conservation

Pocillopora corals are listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which means that trade in this species should be carefully regulated (1). Pocillopora is one of the genera that can be fairly successively cultivated, due to its fast growth rate and the ease at which it can be propagated by fragmentation. Growing tips are collected from large colonies in the wild, and the fragments are cultivated in the sea suspended from fishing lines until large enough to be sold in the aquarium trade. Whilst the initial collection does have impact on wild populations, cultivation poses less threat than complete wild harvesting (5). Pocillopora corals will form part of the marine community in many marine protected areas (MPAs), which offer coral reefs a degree of protection, and there are many calls from non-governmental organisations for larger MPAs to ensure the persistence of these unique and fascinating ecosystems (4).
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Wikipedia

Pocillopora

Pocillopora, is a genus of stony corals in the family Pocilloporidae occurring in the Pacific and Indian Oceans.[1] They are commonly called cauliflower corals and brush corals.

Description[edit]

Cauliflower corals are widespread and can be identified by the presence of wart-like growths on their surface. The colonies can be dome shaped or branching and are very variable in colour and shape depending on the species and the environmental conditions. Species situated on shallow reefs pounded by the sea tend to be stunted whilst those in deep calm water are often thin and open. Each individual polyp has tentacles but these are normally extended only at night.[2]

Biology[edit]

The polyps are hermaphrodite, possessing four sets of male and four sets of female gonads. Pocillopora can reproduce asexually via fragmentation.[3] They also reproduce sexually and the larvae develop inside the polyps rather than free floating in the water. When they are mature, the larvae are released and can remain free-swimming for several weeks before settling on the substrate.[4]

Pocillopora corals contain microscopic symbiotic algae (zooxanthellae) living within them. Through photosynthesis, these algae produce energy-rich molecules that the coral polyps can assimilate. In return, the coral provides the algae with protection and access to sunlight. The polyps also feed by capturing tiny particles using their tentacles. These corals are widespread because they sometimes attach to floating objects and can be carried far afield by currents and wind.[1]

Species[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Veron, J.E.N. (2000) Corals of the World. Australian Institute of Marine Science, Townville, Australia.
  2. ^ Veron, J.E.N. (1986) Corals of Australia and the Indo-Pacific. Angus & Robertson Publishers, London, UK.
  3. ^ Green, E. and Shirley, F. (1999) The Global Trade in Corals. World Conservation Press, Cambridge, UK.
  4. ^ ARKive
  5. ^ Schmidt-Roach S, Miller KJ, Andreakis N (2013) Pocillopora aliciae: a new species of scleractinian coral (Scleractinia, Pocilloporidae) from subtropical Eastern Australia. Zootaxa 3626: 576–582.
  6. ^ Schmidt-Roach S, Miller KJ, Lundgren P, Andreakis N (2014) With eyes wide open: a revision of species within and closely related to the Pocillopora damicornis species complex (Scleractinia; Pocilloporidae) using morphology and genetics. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 170: 1-33.
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