Smooth cauliflower coral (Stylophora pistillata)

loading
Stylophora pistillata
IUCN Red List species status – Near Threatened NEAR
THREATENED

Top facts

  • The smooth cauliflower coral used to be known as a ‘tramp’ species, attaching to floating objects on which it would travel for thousands of kilometres.
  • Smooth cauliflower corals are hermaphrodites, having both female and male reproductive organs.
  • The free swimming fluorescent larvae of the smooth cauliflower coral are always released after sunset.
  • Young colonies of smooth cauliflower coral are only female.
loading
Loading more images and videos...

Smooth cauliflower coral fact file

Smooth cauliflower coral description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumCnidaria
ClassAnthozoa
OrderScleractinia
FamilyPocilloporidae
GenusStylophora (1)

These corals were once named as the ‘tramp’ species of the coral world, due to their tendency to attach themselves to floating objects on which they travel hundreds of kilometres, reproducing on the way (3). These corals form colonies that are generally branching, with short branches. Colonies are composed of many individual coral polyps, each bearing tentacles that are only extended at night (4). Stylophora corals are most commonly cream and pink, but species may also be red, yellow, tan and occasionally green (3).

Also known as
bush corals, club finger corals.
Top

Smooth cauliflower coral biology

The larvae of Stylophora corals readily attach themselves to floating pumice and pieces wood, where they can be transported hundreds or thousands of kilometres. Whilst travelling they can grow into colonies several centimetres across, and are able to produce more larvae en route, thus enabling these corals to be widely distributed (3).

Stylophora are hermaphrodites, possessing both male and female reproductive organs. Oddly however, young colonies have been reported to be female only. Eggs are brooded inside the parent polyp until they are fertilised by sperm from another colony, and are then released as free-swimming larvae. The liberation of larvae always occurs after sunset, filling the waters with green, fluorescent larvae that actively swim and may even be capable of swallowing food, before they settle on the substrate to establish a new colony (3).

Top

Smooth cauliflower coral range

Stylophora pistillata occurs in the Indo-Pacific, ranging from the Red Sea to the central Pacific (4).

See this species on Google Earth.

Top

Smooth cauliflower coral habitat

Occurs primarily in shallow reef flats where it is exposed to strong wave action (4).

Top

Smooth cauliflower coral status

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

IUCN Red List species status – Near Threatened

Top

Smooth cauliflower coral threats

Stylophora 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 (5). Stylophora corals may also be threatened by harvesting for the coral trade. Stylophora is generally traded dead, for ornaments and jewellery, rather than alive, for the aquarium industry (6).

Top

Smooth cauliflower coral conservation

Stylophora 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 (2). Indonesia and Fiji have export quotas for Stylophora corals (2). Stylophora 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 (5).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
Top

Find out more

For further information on this species see Veron, J.E.N. (2000) Corals of the World. Vol. 2. Australian Institute of Marine Science, Townsville, Australia.

For further information on the conservation of coral reefs see:

 

Top

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

Top

Glossary

Colony
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.
Larvae
Relating to corals: the stages of development before settlement on the reef. Larvae are typically very different in appearance to adults; they are able to feed and move around but usually are unable to reproduce.
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.
Top

References

  1. IUCN Red List (October, 2009)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org
  2. CITES (October, 2009)
    http://www.cites.org
  3. Veron, J.E.N. (1986) Corals of Australia and the Indo-Pacific. Angus & Robertson Publishers, London, UK.
  4. Veron, J.E.N. (2000) Corals of the World. Vol. 2. Australian Institute of Marine Science, Townsville, Australia.
  5. Wilkinson, C. (2004) Status of Coral Reefs of the World. Australian Institute of Marine Science, Townsville, Australia.
  6. Bruckner, A.W. (2001) Tracking the trade in ornamental coral reef organisms: the importance of CITES and its limitations. Aquarium Sciences and Conservation, 3: 79 - 94.
X
Close

Image credit

Stylophora pistillata  
Stylophora pistillata

© Francis Abbott / naturepl.com

Nature Picture Library
5a Great George Street
Bristol
BS1 5RR
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 117 911 4675
Fax: +44 (0) 117 911 4699
info@naturepl.com
http://www.naturepl.com

X
Close

Link to this photo

ARKive species - Smooth cauliflower coral (Stylophora pistillata) Embed this ARKive thumbnail link ("portlet") by copying and pasting the code below.

Terms of Use - The displayed portlet may be used as a link from your website to ARKive's online content for private, scientific, conservation or educational purposes only. It may NOT be used within Apps.

Read more about

X
Close

MyARKive

MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite ARKive images and videos and share them with friends.

Play the Team WILD game:

Team WILD, an elite squadron of science superheroes, needs your help! Your mission: protect and conserve the planet’s species and habitats from destruction.

Conservation in Action

Which species are on the road to recovery? Find out now »

This species is featured in:

This species is found in Barrow Island. Visit our Barrow Island topic page to find out more.

This species is featured in:

This species is affected by global climate change. To learn about climate change and the species that are affected, visit our climate change pages.

Help us share the wonders of the natural world. Donate today!

Blog RSS