Fox coral (Nemenzophyllia turbida)

Also known as: jasmine coral, ridge coral
Synonyms: Plerogyra turbida
KingdomAnimalia
PhylumCnidaria
ClassAnthozoa
OrderScleractinia
FamilyEuphyllidae
GenusNemenzophyllia (1)

Fox coral is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (2), and listed on Appendix II of CITES (3).

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).

Fox coral occurs on reefs surrounding Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines and the north of New Guinea, where it is a rare but conspicuous species (1).

Fox corals prefer turbid or sheltered reef environments (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).

For further information on this species see Veron, J.E.N. (2000) Corals of the World. Australian Institute of Marine Science, Townsville, Australia.

For further information on the conservation of coral reefs see: 

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  1. Veron, J.E.N. (2000) Corals of the World. Australian Institute of Marine Science, Townsville, Australia.
  2. IUCN Red List (February, 2011)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  3. CITES (July, 2007)
    http://www.cites.org
  4. Wilkinson, C. (2004) Status of Coral Reefs of the World. Australian Institute of Marine Science, Townsville, Australia.
  5. Green, E. and Shirley, F. (1999) The Global Trade in Corals. World Conservation Press, Cambridge, UK.