Hump coral (Porites annae)

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Porites annae in natural habitat
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Hump coral fact file

Hump coral description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumCnidaria
ClassAnthozoa
OrderScleractinia
FamilyPoritidae
GenusPorites (1)

Extremely long-lived due to their remarkably slow growth rates, with some colonies growing at just nine millimetres a year, Porites corals often form giant colonies which are among some of the oldest living forms of life on earth (3).

Like other colony-forming corals, colonies of Porites annae are composed of numerous small polyps. The polyps secrete a hard calcareous skeleton, called a ‘corallite’, which contributes to the formation of a coral reef over successive generations (3) (4).

Porites annae colonies typically have knobbly, elongate branches, which join together to form one larger branch or column. The branches have a characteristically irregular appearance, and are usually pale or dark green, yellow, purple or brown (3) (4) (5).

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Hump coral biology

Like other reef-building corals, Porites annae has many microscopic photosynthetic algae, called zooxanthellae, living within the polyp tissues. Both the coral and its zooxanthellae are sensitive to changes in water temperature and acidity, and any increase in the water temperature greater than one or two degrees Celsius above the average may stress the coral and cause ‘bleaching’, a phenomenon in which the coral expels it zooxanthellae and turns white (3) (4).

The coral and the algae have a mutually beneficial relationship; the coral provides protection for the algae, which in return provide energy and nutrients for the coral through photosynthesis (3) (4). Porites annae is also able to supplement this with a diet of minute zooplankton, which it catches using stinging cells on tentacles that extend from the coral polyp (3). The tentacles of Porites annae are generally only extended at night (4).  

Porites corals have separate male and female colonies. Instead of releasing bundles of eggs into the water, most Porites species brood the larvae inside their body cavity. Fertilisation is generally internal and therefore depends on free-swimming sperm from male colonies reaching the polyps of female colonies (3). When released, the larvae quickly settle close to the parent colony. Whilst this means that, unlike spawning corals, the coral is not easily dispersed, brooding corals have the advantage of their young settling in an environment that has already proved suitable for successful reproduction (4).

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Hump coral range

Porites annae occurs in the northern Indian Ocean, including the Arabian Sea, the central Indo-Pacific, Australia, Japan and the South China Sea and the oceanic West Pacific (1).

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Hump coral habitat

Usually found on reef slopes, Porites annae occurs in both clear and murky, turbid waters. It generally inhabits depths down to 30 metres (1) (3) (4) (5).

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Hump coral status

Porites annae is classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List (1) and is listed on Appendix II of CITES (2).

IUCN Red List species status – Near Threatened

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Hump coral threats

Although less susceptible to bleaching than many coral genera, the Porites genus is much more prone to disease than many other corals. An emerging threat to coral reefs worldwide, coral disease is a major cause of reef deterioration (1).

The major threat to all corals is global climate change, which is expected to cause rising sea surface temperatures and ocean acidification, and more frequent, severe storms, which can damage reefs. Climate change will also increase the risk, frequency and duration of coral bleaching, and corals will be more susceptible to disease, parasites and predators, such as the crown of thorns starfish (Acanthaster planci) (1) (6) (7) (8).

Worldwide there is increasing pressure on coastal resources resulting from human population growth and development. There has been a significant increase in domestic and agricultural waste in the oceans, pollution, poor land-use practices that result in an increase in sediment running on to the reefs, and over-fishing, which can all have knock-on effects on the reef (6). Porites species are also heavily collected for the aquarium trade (1).

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Hump coral conservation

Porites annae is listed on Appendix II of CITES, meaning that all trade in this species should be carefully monitored. Parts of this species’ distribution falls within Marine Protected Areas (1).  

Recommended conservation measures for Porites annae include research on its population trends, abundance, ecology and habitat. There is a need to identify how resilient this species is to existing threats, and to identify any unknown threats it may face currently and in future. Protected areas are likely to be beneficial to this species and so should be effectively managed and expanded, and potential new sites for protected areas should also be identified (1).

Porites annae is targeted by collectors for the aquarium trade. Population surveys should be carried out to monitor the effects of harvesting on this species, and fisheries management needs to be carefully considered, including setting catch quotas, size-limits and no-take zones, especially within Marine Protected Areas (1).

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Find out more

Further information on the conservation of coral reefs:

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Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

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Glossary

Algae
Simple plants that lack roots, stems and leaves but contain the green pigment chlorophyll. Most occur in marine and freshwater habitats.
Calcareous
Containing free calcium carbonate, chalky.
Colonies
A group of organisms living together. Individuals in the group are not physiologically connected and may not be related, such as a colony of birds. Another meaning refers to organisms, such as bryozoans, which are composed of numerous genetically identical modules (also referred to as zooids or ‘individuals’), which are produced by budding and remain physiologically connected.
Fertilisation
The fusion of gametes (male and female reproductive cells) to produce an embryo, which grows into a new individual.
Genus
A category used in taxonomy, which is below ‘family’ and above ‘species’. A genus tends to contain species that have characteristics in common. The genus forms the first part of a ‘binomial’ Latin species name; the second part is the specific name.
Larvae
Stage in an animal’s lifecycle after it hatches from the egg. Larvae are typically very different in appearance to adults; they are able to feed and move around but usually are unable to reproduce.
Photosynthetic
Capable of photosynthesis, a 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.
Polyp
Typically sedentary soft-bodied component of cnidaria, a group of simple aquatic animals including the sea anemones, corals and jellyfish. A polyp comprises a trunk that is fixed at the base, and a mouth that is placed at the opposite end of the trunk and is surrounded by tentacles.
Spawning
The production or depositing of large quantities of eggs in water.
Zooplankton
Tiny aquatic animals that drift with currents or swim weakly in water.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (April, 2011)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. CITES (April 2011)
    http://www.cites.org/
  3. Veron, J.E.N. (2000) Corals of the World. Australian Institute of Marine Science, Townville, Australia.
  4. Veron, J.E.N. (1986) Corals of Australia and the Indo-Pacific. Angus and Robertson Publishers, UK.
  5. Dai, C. and Horng, S. (2009) Scleractinia Fauna of Taiwan: 1. The Complex Group. National Taiwan University Press, Taiwan.
  6. Wilkinson, C. (2008) Status of Coral Reefs of the World: 2008. Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network Reef and Rainforest Research Centre, Townsville, Australia. Available at:
    http://www.icriforum.org/sites/default/files/Status%20Coral%20%20Reefs%20of%20World%202008%20%20Executive%20Summary_0.pdf
  7. Carpenter, K.E. et al. (2008) One-third of reef-building corals face elevated extinction risk from climate change and local impacts. Science, 321: 560-563.
  8. Miththapala, S. (2008) Coral Reefs. Coastal Ecosystems Series (Volume 1). Ecosystems and Livelihoods Group Asia, IUCN, Colombo, Sri Lanka.
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Image credit

Porites annae in natural habitat  
Porites annae in natural habitat

© Dave Burdick / www.guamreeflife.com

Dave Burdick
http://www.guamreeflife.com

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