Elkhorn coral Scientist Ecstatic Over Rare Coral!

Acropora palmata,

A scientist from Australia has stumbled across what might be the rarest coral in the world, in the vastness of the remote North Pacific.

The coral, identified as Pacific elkhorn, was discovered while performing underwater surveys at Arno atoll, situated in the Marshall Islands, by Dr. Zoe Richards, a coral researcher of the CoECRS (ARC Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies).

This coral is strikingly similar to the endangered and rapidly disappearing elkhorn coral, known in scientific circles as Acropora palmata, native to the Atlantic Ocean.

However, upon close genetic comparison is has proven that this coral is actually a different species.

“When I first saw it, I was absolutely stunned. The huge colonies – five metres across and nearly two metres high with branches like an elk’s antlers – were like nothing I’d seen before in the Pacific Ocean,”
Dr Richards commented during a conference.

So far I have only found this new population of coral to occur along a small stretch of reef at a single atoll in the Marshalls group.

“It grows in relatively shallow water along the exposed reef front and, so far, fewer than 200 colonies are known from that small area.”

Dr. Richards explained that the Pacific elkhorn colonies were the largest of their kind, and also largest in all of the colonies located at Arno Atoll. This means that they are incredibly old.

So, there you have it. A new coral, well OK, newly discovered coral, is making quite a splash in the scientific community, and has sparked debate as to whether it is indeed a new species or not. Only time will tell…