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First spotting of Acropora gemmifera in the main Hawaiian Islands

By Shane Graber - Posted Oct 28, 2013 11:00 AM
Up until April 2013, there have been no historical reports of any Acropora species occurring around the Island of Hawai‘i, the southernmost island in the archipelago, nor were any observed in over 4,300 coral reef monitoring/research dives over the past 14 years.
First spotting of Acropora gemmifera in the main Hawaiian Islands

Acropora gemmifera encrusting form (left); Large colony of Acropora gemmifera with white tumor (growth anomaly) just below center of image (right).

This species first was reported by a group of researchers from the Hawai‘i Division of Aquatic Resources who were using diver propulsion vehicles to survey South Kona on the West Coast of the Island of Hawai‘i. While observing the reef structure, they happened upon a large number of Acropora gemmifera colonies and their identities were later confirmed by genetic testing.

In all, they encountered 75 colonies in a ~50-meter length of reef in water depths varying from 3-10-meters in depth.  Interestingly, they encountered various colony morphologies, ranging from small encrusting forms to "large upright digitate colonies...the largest of which was 71 × 68 × 75.5 cm (LWH)" (pictured above - right).

The researchers also attempted to estimate the age of the largest colony based on the growth rate of a similar species: Acropora humilis. Based on its growth rate, they estimate the large colony's age at about 80 years.

Author: Shane Graber
Location: Indiana

Shane has kept saltwater tanks for the last 12 years, is a research scientist, lives in northern Indiana, and is a proud Advanced Aquarist staffer.

Website: http://www.advancedaquarist.com/.

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