Overview

Distribution

Range Description

In the Indo-West Pacific, this species occurs in the Northern Indian Ocean, the Central Indo-Pacific, eastern Australia, and the oceanic west Pacific. The species has also been reported by other authors from the Indo-West Pacific including Easter Island (Reyes-Bonilla 2002, Glynn et al. 2003, Glynn et al. 2007). Solomon Islands (Veron and Turak 2006) Palau and Marianas (Randall 1995)

According to Reyes-Bonilla (2002), Colombia is the only location where Pocillopora danae is found at the Eastern Tropical Pacific region. However, this coral is not listed by Zapata and Vargas-Angel (2003). Moreover, Glynn et al. (2007), listed this species as present in the Society Islands, Tuamotus and Marquesas in French Polynesia, and at Easter Island, Chile.
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Physical Description

Type Information

Holotype for Pocillopora danae Verrill, 1864
Catalog Number: USNM 696
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Invertebrate Zoology
Preparation: Dry
Year Collected: 1838
Locality: Fiji, South Pacific Ocean
  • Holotype: Verrill. 1864. Bull. Mus. Comp. Zool. 1(3): 59, no fig. (see dana, 1846 :528, pl.50, fig.1).
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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
This species occurs in shallow, tropical reef environments on partly protected reef slopes. The maximum size is over 1 m across. This species is found to 15 m.

Pocilloporid corals, presumably including P. danae, are generally amongst the strongest coral competitors with relatively high rates of calcification (Glynn 2001). However, coral species exhibiting high rates of calcification usually have relatively high mortality rates (Glynn 2000). Pocilloporid corals also usually predominate at shallow depths (1-15 m). Amongst the reef building corals in the Eastern Tropical Pacific region, pocilloporid species have the highest growth rates (Guzmán and Cortes 1993). They are the principal framework builders on Panamanian reefs (Glynn 2002).

Pocillopora species are preyed on by at least nine groups of consumers. These vary in their consumption patterns, but include:

a) Species that bite off colony branch-tips: pufferfishes (Arothron), parrotfishes (Scaridae), filefishes (Monacanthidae) (Glynn 2002).

b) Species that scrape skeletal surface: hermit crabs (Trizopagurus, Aniculus, and Calcinus) (Glynn 2002).

c) Species that remove tissues but leave the skeleton intact: gastropods (Jenneria pustulata and Quoyula sp. (Glynn 2002)), buterflyfishes, angelfishes, damselfish (Stegastes acapulcoensis), and Acanthaster planci (Glynn 2002).

d) Species that abrade tissues and skeleton: Eucidaris galapagensis (Glynn 2001).

Jenneria and Acanthaster can kill whole, relatively large (approx. 30 cm in diameter) colonies of Pocillopora (Glynn 2002). Pocilloporid species can have crab (Trapezia sp.) and alpheid shrimp as mutualistic symbionts that protect the coral from the attack of the crown-of-thorns sea star A. planci (Glynn 2001).

Systems
  • Marine
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
VU
Vulnerable

Red List Criteria
A4ce

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 uncommon throughout its range. However, it is particularly susceptible to bleaching, disease, crown-of-thorns starfish predation, 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 38% over three generation lengths (30 years) is the best inference of population reduction and meets the threshold for Vulnerable under Criterion A4ce. 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 species is usually uncommon.

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
Pocillopora genus is particularly susceptible to bleaching.

Pocilloporid species as well as other major reef building corals within the Eastern Tropical Pacific region (Porites, Pavona, Gardinoseris) catastrophically declined in the Galápagos Archipelago and Cocos Island after 1983. Recovery observed since that time was in large part nullified by the 1997-98 ENSO event (Glynn 2000). According to Glynn et al.(1988), pocilloporid coral mortality in the eastern Pacific was high, ranging from 51% at Caño Island to 76-85% in Panama and 97-100% in the Galápagos Islands (Glynn et al. 1988).

Glynn (1994) suggests that the sea urchin Eucidaris galapagensis (syn. E. thouarsii) provides important biotic control of pocilloporid reef development. This urchin is the most persistent corallivore in the Galapagos Islands, where it is often observed grazing on pocilloporid corals (Glynn 2001).

Overfishing is probably responsible for some ecological imbalance on coral reefs that could prolong recovery from other disturbances (Glynn 2001). Moreover, Edgar et al.(unpublished manuscript) reported that over-exploitation of sea urchin predators (lobsters and fishes), along with ENSO, has a major effect in the condition and distribution of corals in the Galapagos Islands, by increasing the grazer and bioerosion pressure on corals.

Coral mortality associated with phytoplankton blooms has been reported from Caño Island, Costa Rica, and Uva Island, Panama, in 1985; where mortality of pocilloporid species (especially P. capitata and P. elegans) was in the order of 100% and 13% respectively at 3 m depth (Guzmán et al. 1990).

According to Glynn (2001), pocilloporid coral harvesting is an important threat in the Eastern Tropical Pacific region, specially along the continental coast. This activity has virtually eliminated pocilloporid corals from Acapulco (Mexico), Bahia Culebra (Costa Rica), Taboga Island (Panama), and parts of the coast of Ecuador (Glynn 2001). Nevertheless, this activity is now largely excluded from Costa Rica and Panama (Guzmán pers. comm.).

Bryant et al. (1998), based on four anthropogenic factors (coastal development; overexploitation and destructive fishing practice; inland pollution and erosion, and marine pollution), estimated a high threat to coral reefs along the coasts of Costa Rica, Panama and Colombia. High levels of siltation caused by accelerated coastal erosion have degraded coral reefs in Costa Rica, Colombia and Ecuador (Glynn 2001).

Other threats include: a) predation principally by Acanthaster and Jenneria (Glynn 2002, 1994, 2000), and b) harvesting for the curio trade, an activity that has virtually eliminated pocilloporid corals from Acapulco (Mexico), Bahia Culebra (Costa Rica), Taboga Island (Panama), and parts of the coast of Ecuador (Glynn 2001).

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.

Having timely access to national-level trade data for CITES analysis reports would be valuable for monitoring trends this species. The species is targeted by collectors for the aquarium trade and fisheries management is required for the species, e.g., MPAs, quotas, size limits, etc. Consideration of the suitability of species for aquaria should also be included as part of fisheries management, and population surveys should be carried out to monitor the effects of harvesting. Recommended conservation measures include population surveys to monitor the effects of collecting for the aquarium trade, especially in Indonesia.
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