The grey-coloured fox coral (Nemenzophyllia turbida) is the only species in the genus Nemenzophyllia. Large coral colonies are composed of many coral polyps. The coral polyp is basically an anemone-like animal that secretes a skeleton, at the base of which it joins together with other polyps. The polyps of the fox coral possess fleshy mantles that form a continuous cover over the colony, which may be several meters across. The mantles are grey, sometimes with pale margins (1).
Like other reef-building corals, fox coral polyps have microscopic algae (zooxanthellae) living within their tissues. Through photosynthesis, these symbiotic algae produce energy-rich molecules that the coral polyps can use as nutrition. In return, the coral provides the zooxanthellae with protection and access to sunlight (1)
Fox corals face the many threats that are impacting coral reefs globally. It is estimated that 20 percent of the world’s coral reefs have already been effectively destroyed and show no immediate prospects of recovery, and 24 percent of the world’s reefs are under imminent risk of collapse due to human pressures. These human impacts include poor land management practices that are releasing more sediment, nutrients and pollutants into the oceans and stressing the fragile reef ecosystem. Over fishing has ‘knock-on’ effects that results in the increase of macro-algae that can out-compete and smother corals, and fishing using destructive methods physically devastates the reef. A further potential threat is the increase of coral bleaching events, as a result of global climate change (4). Fox corals may also potentially be threatened by the coral trade, as it is one of the ten genera most frequently traded live for use in aquariums (5).
Fox 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 (3). Indonesia has export quotas in place for this species (3). Fox corals will form part of the marine community in many marine protected areas (MPAs), which offer coral reefs a degree of protection, and there are many calls from non-governmental organisations for larger MPAs to ensure the persistence of these unique and fascinating ecosystems (4).
Relating to corals: corals composed of numerous genetically identical individuals (also referred to as zooids or polyps), which are produced by budding and remain physiologically connected.
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 made and oxygen is given off as a by-product.
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.
Describing a close relationship between two organisms. This term usually refers to a relationship that benefits both organisms.
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