Species Details

Details of Cauliflower coral will be displayed below

Cauliflower coral   

Common Name: .
Scientific Name: Pocillopora meandrina
Local Name: .
Dhivehi Name: .
Animalia  (Kingdom)
Cnidaria  (Plylum)
Anthozoa  (Class)
Scleractinia  (Order)
Pocilloporidae  (Family)
Pocillopora   (Genus)

Cauliflower coral's description

Colonies of Pocillopora meandrina are small upright bushes, with branches radiating from the initial point of growth. Branches are flattened and covered by bumps called verrucae. Colonies are usually cream colored but can also be green or pink.

Cauliflower coral's Conservation

Threats: Climate change, including ocean warming and ocean acidification, Habitat degradation, Diseases, Unsustainable fishing

Cauliflower coral habitat

Pocillopora meandrina occurs on shallow reefs and amongst coral communities on rocky reefs, at depth from 3-27 m (Reyes-Bonilla et al. 2005). The colonies are small (up to 30 cm).

Amongst the reef building corals from the Eastern Tropical Pacific region, pocilloporid species have the highest growth rates (Guzmán and Cortés 1993). The growth rates of Pocillopora meandrina from Bahia Culebra, Costa Rica, varies between 1.8 to 5.6 cm per year, and these were the highest growth rates at Golfo de Papagayo, Costa Rica (Jimenez and Cortes 2003).

Pocilloporid corals, presumably including P. meandrina, are generally amongst the strongest coral competitors with relatively high rates of calcification (Glynn 2001). However, coral species exhibiting high rates of calcification usually have relatively high mortality rates (Glynn 2000). Pocilloporid corals also usually predominate at shallow depths (1-15 m). Amongst the reef building corals in the Eastern Tropical Pacific region, pocilloporid species have the highest growth rates (Guzman and Cortes 1993). They are the principal framework builders on Panamanian reefs (Glynn 2002), particularly P. damicornis.

Pocillopora species are preyed on by at least nine groups of consumers. These vary in their consumption patterns, but include:

a) Species that bite off colony branch-tips: pufferfishes (Arothron), parrotfishes (Scaridae), filefishes (Monacanthidae) (Glynn 2002).

b) Species that scrape skeletal surface: hermit crabs (Trizopagurus, Aniculus, and Calcinus) (Glynn 2002).

c) Species that remove tissues but leave the skeleton intact: gastropods (Jenneria pustulata and Quoyula sp. (Glynn 2002)), buterflyfishes, angelfishes, damselfish (Stegastes acapulcoensis), and Acanthaster planci (Glynn 2002).

d) Species that abrade tissues and skeleton: Eucidaris galapagensis (Glynn 2001).

Jenneria and Acanthaster can kill whole, relatively large (approx. 30 cm in diameter) colonies of Pocillopora (Glynn 2002). Pocilloporid species can have crab (Trapezia sp.) and alpheid shrimp as mutualistic symbionts that protect the coral from the attack of the crown-of-thorns sea star A. planci (Glynn 2001).

Cauliflower coral threats

The total number of corals (live and raw) exported for this species in 2005 was 335.

Monofilament fishing lines are probably one of the major causes of P. meandrina death at popular cast fishing sites in Hawaii (Yoshikawa and Asoh 2004).

El Niño and presumably climate change are threats in the Eastern Tropical Pacific. Pocilloporid species as well as other major reef building corals within the Eastern Tropical Pacific region (Porites, Pavona, Gardinoseris) catastrophically declined in the Galápagos Archipelago and Cocos Island after 1983. Recovery observed since that time was in large part nullified by the 1997-98 ENSO event (Glynn 2000). According to Glynn et al.(1988), pocilloporid coral mortality in the eastern Pacific was high, ranging from 51% at Caño Island to 76-85% in Panama and 97-100% in the Galápagos Islands (Glynn et al. 1988).

Glynn (1994) suggests that the sea urchin Eucidaris galapagensis (syn E. thouarsii) provides important biotic control of pocilloporid reef development. This urchin is the most persistent corallivore in the Galapagos Islands, where it is often observed grazing on pocilloporid corals (Glynn 2001).

In the Eastern Tropical Pacific, overfishing is probably responsible for some ecological imbalance on coral reefs that could prolong recovery from other disturbances (Glynn 2001). Moreover, Edgar et al.(unpublished manuscript) reported that over-exploitation of sea urchin predators (lobsters and fishes), along with ENSO, has a major effect in the condition and distribution of corals in the Galápagos Islands, by increasing the grazer and bioerosion pressure on corals.

Coral mortality associated with phytoplankton blooms has been reported from Caño Island, Costa Rica, and Uva Island, Panama, in 1985; where mortality of pocilloporid species (especially P. capitata and P. elegans) was in the order of 100% and 13% respectively at 3m depth (Guzmán et al. 1990).

According to Glynn (2001), pocilloporid coral harvesting is an important threat in the Eastern Tropical Pacific region, especially along the continental coast. This activity has virtually eliminated pocilloporid corals from Acapulco (Mexico), Bahia Culebra (Costa Rica), Taboga Island (Panama), and parts of the coast of Ecuador (Glynn 2001). Nevertheless, this activity is now largely excluded from Costa Rica and Panama (Guzmán pers. comm.).

Bryant et al. (1998), based on four anthropogenic factors (coastal development; overexploitation and destructive fishing practice; inland pollution and erosion, and marine pollution), estimated a high threat to coral reefs along the coasts of Costa Rica, Panama and Colombia. High levels of siltation caused by accelerated coastal erosion have degraded coral reefs in Costa Rica, Colombia and Ecuador (Glynn 2001).

Other threats in the Eastern Tropical Pacific include: a) predation principally by Acanthaster and Jenneria (Glynn 2002, 1994, 2000), and b) harvesting for the curio trade, an activity that has virtually eliminated pocilloporid corals from Acapulco (Mexico), Bahia Culebra (Costa Rica), Taboga Island (Panama), and parts of the coast of Ecuador (Glynn 2001).

In general, the major threat to corals is global climate change, in particular, temperature extremes leading to bleaching and increased susceptibility to disease, increased severity of ENSO events and storms, and ocean acidification.

Coral disease has emerged as a serious threat to coral reefs worldwide and a major cause of reef deterioration (Weil et al. 2006). The numbers of diseases and coral species affected, as well as the distribution of diseases have all increased dramatically within the last decade (Porter et al. 2001, Green and Bruckner 2000, Sutherland et al. 2004, Weil 2004). Coral disease epizootics have resulted in significant losses of coral cover and were implicated in the dramatic decline of acroporids in the Florida Keys (Aronson and Precht 2001, Porter et al. 2001, Patterson et al. 2002). In the Indo-Pacific, disease is also on the rise with disease outbreaks recently reported from the Great Barrier Reef (Willis et al. 2004), Marshall Islands (Jacobson 2006) and the northwestern Hawaiian Islands (Aeby 2006). Increased coral disease levels on the GBR were correlated with increased ocean temperatures (Willis et al. 2007) supporting the prediction that disease levels will be increasing with higher sea surface temperatures. Escalating anthropogenic stressors combined with the threats associated with global climate change of increases in coral disease, frequency and duration of coral bleaching and ocean acidification place coral reefs in the Indo-Pacific at high risk of collapse.

Localized threats to corals include fisheries, human development (industry, settlement, tourism, and transportation), changes in native species dynamics (competitors, predators, pathogens and parasites), invasive species (competitors, predators, pathogens and parasites), dynamite fishing, chemical fishing, pollution from agriculture and industry, domestic pollution, sedimentation, and human recreation and tourism activities.

The severity of these combined threats to the global population of each individual species is not known.

Cauliflower coral's status