Elegance coral (Catalaphyllia jardinei)
|Also known as:||elegant coral, wonder coral|
Elegance coral is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1), and is listed on Appendix II of CITES (2).
With its distinctive green tentacles, tipped with bright pink, elegance coral (Catalaphyllia jardinei) is one of the most beautiful of all corals. Many individual coral polyps come together to form a colony, which has wide v-shaped valleys. Each polyp has a striped oral disc, or mouth, surrounded by the colourful, tubular tentacles, which the polyp uses to capture food (3).
Elegance coral occurs in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, from the Seychelles to Vanuatu, and from northern Australia to southern Japan (3).
Elegance coral occurs in tropical and temperate waters, in sheltered and preferably turbid water (3).
Many aspects of the biology and life history of Catalaphyllia are unknown (4). This species can be both free-living and colonial. Like many corals, elegance coral has a special symbiotic relationship with an algae, called zooxanthellae. The zooxanthellae live inside the tissues of the coral, and provide the coral with nutrients, which it produces through photosynthesis, and therefore requires sunlight. In return, the coral provides the algae with protection and access to sunlight. The coral polyps also obtain nutrients by capturing prey with their tentacles (5).
Elegance coral faces many threats that are affecting coral reefs globally. These include increasing pressure on coastal resources, resulting from human population growth; and technological development, such as mechanical dredges, and dynamiting and poisoning on reefs to collect fish, which destroys reefs. The impacts of these major factors are compounded by the effects of excessive domestic and agricultural waste in the oceans, poor land-use practices that result in an increase in sediment running on to the reefs, and over-fishing, which can have ‘knock-on’ effects on the reef (6).
The devastating effect of human activities is exemplified by the destruction of a large community of elegance coral in Kushimoto, western Japan, caused by the construction of a marine port, and over 5,000 square kilometres of coral reef was destroyed around Sesoke Island, Japan, during development of the shoreline (7). Elegance coral may also be threatened by harvesting for the live coral trade. Its beautiful tentacles mean that it is a popular aquarium exhibit, and is one of the species that dominates the live coral trade, a trade that increased tenfold from 1985 to 1997 (8).
Elegance 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, and a permit is required to bring the coral, or objects made from them, into the countries that have signed the CITES convention (2). Elegance corals will also form part of the marine community in many marine protected areas, or in areas where management plans are in place to protect the coral community.
For further information on elegance coral:
- Veron, J.E.N. (1986) Corals of Australia and the Indo-Pacific. Angus & Robertson Publishers, UK.
EDGE of Existence:
For further information on the conservation of coral reefs:
The Coral Reef Alliance:
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- Algae: simple plants that lack roots, stems and leaves but contain the green pigment chlorophyll. Most occur in marine and freshwater habitats.
- Colonial: relating to or belonging to a colony (a group of organisms living together in a group).
- Colony: relating to corals: a coral composed of numerous genetically identical individuals (also referred to as zooids or polyps), which are produced by budding and remain physiologically connected.
- Free-living: relating to corals: corals that are not attached to the substrate.
- Photosynthesis: metabolic process characteristic of plants in which carbon dioxide is broken down, using energy from sunlight absorbed by the green pigment chlorophyll. Organic compounds are produced and oxygen is given off as a by-product.
- Polyp: typically sedentary soft-bodied component of Cnidaria (corals, sea pens etc), which comprise of a trunk that is fixed at the base; the mouth is placed at the opposite end of the trunk, and is surrounded by tentacles.
- Symbiotic: describing a close relationship between two organisms. This term usually refers to a relationship that benefits both organisms.
IUCN Red List (March, 2011)
CITES (June, 2007)
- Veron, J.E.N. (2000) Corals of the World. Vol. 2. Australian Institute of Marine Science, Townsville, Australia.
- Raymakers, C. (2001) Review of trade in live corals from Indonesia. TRAFFICEurope, Brussels, Belgium.
- Borneman, E.H. (2001) Aquarium coral; Selection, Husbandry and Natural History. T.F.H. Publications, New Jersey, USA.
Reefs at Risk: A Programme of Action (July, 2007)
- Wilkinson, C. (2002) Status of Coral Reefs of the World. Australian Institute of Marine Science, Townsville, Queensland.
- Green, E. and Shirley, F. (1999) The Global Trade in Corals. World Conservation Press, Cambridge, UK.