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Kidadl Team

AUGUST 06, 2021

Elkhorn Coral: 15 Facts You Won’t Believe!

Interesting elkhorn coral facts for kids.

A rare species, elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata), is a major reef-building coral found majorly in the shallow water of the United States, Caribbean nations, and a few countries of the South American continent. Elkhorn corals are prominently found in the coral reefs of southern Florida.

Elkhorn corals are found either in yellow or yellowish-brown color, also the species has hard antlers-like branches. The average length and height of these corals are 43 ft (13 m) and 6 ft (2 m) respectively. Also, a growth of around 2-4 in (5-10 cm) is seen each year.

Unlike other aquatic species, the elkhorn coral can reproduce by both modes: asexual reproduction and sexual reproduction. The breeding season usually occurs during August or September. The species of corals are omnivores and primarily prey on algae and phytoplankton, microbes, and small zooplanktons. While aquatic species such as coralliophilid snails, fireworms, and damselfish prey on the coral reef.

During the 1980s, numbers of elkhorn corals was not a major concern but over the years, a sharp fall in their numbers can be seen. Scientists listed it in the Endangered Species Act and the International Union for Conservation of Nature has declared the species Critically Endangered. Ocean acidification, global warming, overfishing, and climate change are a few threats to the coral populations.

Keep on reading to learn more interesting facts about elkhorn coral. If you want to know more exciting information about different animals, check out our brain coral facts and fire coral facts.

Elkhorn Coral Interesting Facts

What type of animal is an elkhorn coral?

The elkhorn coral is an immovable species found in marine waters. This species of coral is omnivorous and primarily prey on algae and phytoplankton, microbes, and small zooplanktons.

What class of animal does an elkhorn coral belong to?

The elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata) belongs to the class of Anthozoa, the Acroporidae family, and the genus of Acropora.

How many elkhorn corals are there in the world?

The exact population of the species is not known but since the 1980s, the populations of the species have been declining rapidly. During the last few decades of the 20th century, the elkhorn coral species was widely distributed in the southeastern region of the Northern Hemisphere. Also, in the Caribbean nations, around 98% of the population of the coral reef has vanished.

Where does an elkhorn coral live?

The endangered species is found in the clean and shallow water of a few states of the United States such as Flordia, the northern part of the Gulf of Mexico, the Bahamas in the Caribbean region, and Venezuela of South America.

What is an elkhorn coral's habitat?

The primary elkhorn coral habitat is the shallow water, the depth of the water ranger between 3.2-16.4 ft (1-5 m).

Who do elkhorn corals live with?

The elkhorn corals primarily form colonies. Also, elkhorn corals share a symbiotic relationship with algae called zooxanthellae.

How long does an elkhorn coral live?

The elkhorn coral species generally live for around 10-12 years. Also, a growth of around 2-4 in (5-10 cm) in the elkhorn coral's size is seen each year. Several studies reveal that the colonies of corals persist for several centuries.

How do they reproduce?

An interesting fact about elkhorn coral reproduction is that the species is hermaphroditic and follows both modes. While talking about asexual reproduction, which is the most common in the species, several external factors such as storms, heavy wave action, ship disturbances play a major role in breaking the coral branches and transporting them to other places. Fragmented corals form new colonies. These new colonies are genetically similar to their parent colonies.

While in sexual reproduction, the breeding season occurs during August or September. During the breeding season, males and females release millions of gametes at the same time into the water column. Planula or the coral larvae generally floats as plankton for a few days until they metamorphose into colonial polyps and form new colonies.

What is their conservation status?

The International Union for Conservation of Nature has declared the species Critically Endangered. When around 98% of the population of the coral reefs vanished from the Caribbean nations, scientists listed the species in the Endangered Species Act. Also, the species in the United States Federal List listed as Threatened Species. The National Marine Fisheries Service also received several petitions to declare elkhorn corals as either Threatened Species or Endangered Species.

The major threats to elkhorn corals are overfishing, climate change, global warming, ocean acidification. Global warming has highly affected the numbers of coral reefs.

Elkhorn Coral Fun Facts

What do elkhorn corals look like?

The branches of these hard corals are composed of calcium carbonate and fishes such as grunts, snappers, and damselfishes generally form schools and prey on elkhorn corals.

These rare elkhorn coral facts would make you love them.

How cute are they?

The most intriguing thing about elkhorn corals is their antlers-like branches, these yellow branches resemble the antlers of deers. Also, these beautiful species attract tourists from all over the world.

How do they communicate?

Like other aquatic species, elkhorn coral polyps do not communicate with each other but during their breeding season or full moon in August or September, they release gametes to produce offspring. Also, when some predator comes closer to the polyps or they sense some kind of touch, polyps exude venomous nematocytes.

How big is an elkhorn coral?

This species possesses a large coral body and the average length and height of the elkhorn coral are 43 ft (13 m) and 6 ft (2 m) respectively. Also, a growth of around 2-4 in (5-10 cm) is seen each year. They are twice the size of the mutton snapper.

How fast can an elkhorn coral move?

Like other coral reefs, elkhorn coral is sensible and cannot move. They are fixed in one place and prey without moving.

How much does an elkhorn coral weigh?

The information regarding the elkhorn coral weight is not available as of now.

What are the male and female names of the species?

There are no specific names given to the male and female elkhorn coral. This species are hermaphrodites.

What would you call a baby elkhorn coral?

People generally refer to the baby of elkhorn coral as planula or coral larvae.

What do they eat?

The species of corals are omnivores and primarily prey on algae, phytoplankton, microbes, and small zooplanktons. While aquatic species such as snail, fireworm, and damselfish prey on coral reefs.

Are they poisonous?

All coral reefs including the elkhorn coral possess highly toxic and lethal toxic and if they feel threatened, polyps release venomous nematocytes. These toxins could be very harmful to humans and sometimes even cause death.

Would they make a good pet?

Generally, people do not consider elkhorn coral as a pet as the species is Critically Endangered. It is always suggested not to interfere with aquatic life. Also, proper care and ideal temperature need to be maintained before keeping them.

Did you know...

Among all coral reefs, the Great Barrier Reef, located in Australia is considered the largest coral reef in the world. The reef stretches for over  1430 m (2,300 km) and can also be seen from outer space. There are around 2,900 coral reefs present on 900 islands.

Another species of corals, the staghorn coral is best known for its cylindrical branches. Also, the International Union for Conservation of Nature has declared the species as Critically Endangered. Threats such as bleaching, predation, and coral diseases have highly affected the population of staghorn corals. The scientific name of the staghorn coral species is Acropora cervicornis.

A variety of fishes is provided by the coral reefs to more than 500 million people throughout the world.

Why is elkhorn coral endangered?

Several threats such as overfishing, climate change, and ocean acidification have drastically affected the population of the reefs all around the world. Carbon emissions have led to global warming that has increased the average temperature. Due to the warm temperature of the waters, the colonies of coral reefs lose the source of oxygen.

Carbon emissions have also increased the level of carbon dioxide in marine water. The branches of the elkhorn corals become weak due to the chemical bonds formed by carbon dioxide.

Overfishing by humans has resulted in a drastic fall in the population of fishes. Fishes generally prey on the macroalgae present on the coral reef. The macroalgae damage elkhorn corals by producing harmful toxic chemicals.

Several species of corals are prone to a serious disease called 'white pox disease.' Thick lesions are formed that cause loss of tissue every day. Due to these threats, around 98% of the population of the coral reefs vanished from the Caribbean nations. The species has also been listed in the Endangered Species Act.

Why is elkhorn coral important?

Elkhorn corals are very significant for humans as well as the aquatic ecosystem. The species provides habitat and food to several organisms and fishes. The coral reefs also protect from large waves and storms. According to the National Marine Fisheries Service, the coral reefs are an important part of the ecosystem of the Caribbean and other neighboring nations.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! For more relatable content, check out these giant green anemone facts and sea anemone facts.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable elkhorn coral coloring pages.

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