Mycetophyllia ferox

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
ANIMALIA CNIDARIA ANTHOZOA SCLERACTINIA MUSSIDAE

Scientific Name: Mycetophyllia ferox
Species Authority: Wells 1973
Common Name(s):
English Rough Cactus Coral

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable A4ce ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-01-01
Assessor(s): Aronson, R., Bruckner, A., Moore, J., Precht, B. & E. Weil
Reviewer(s): Livingstone, S., Polidoro, B. & Smith, J. (Global Marine Species Assessment)
Justification:
This species is widespread and common throughout its range. However, it is particularly susceptible to bleaching, disease, and extensive reduction of coral reef habitat due to a combination of threats. This species has experienced localized mass mortalities from disease and bleaching since the mid-1970s with several outbreaks of white plague in subsequent years throughout its range, and has experienced high mortality during recent intense bleaching events. Specific population trends are unknown but population reduction can be inferred from declines in habitat quality based on the combined estimates of both destroyed reefs and reefs at the critical stage of degradation within its range (Wilkinson 2004). Its threat susceptibility increases the likelihood of being lost within one generation in the future from reefs at a critical stage. Therefore, the estimated habitat degradation and loss of 38% over three generation lengths (30 years) is the best inference of population reduction and meets the threshold for Vulnerable under Criterion A4ce. It will be important to reassess this species in 10 years time because of predicted threats from climate change and ocean acidification.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:This species occurs in the Caribbean, southern Gulf of Mexico, Florida, and the Bahamas. Possibly present in the Flower Gardens, though not mentioned by Grimm and Hopkins (1977).
Countries:
Native:
Anguilla; Antigua and Barbuda; Bahamas; Barbados; Belize; Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba (Saba, Sint Eustatius); Cayman Islands; Colombia; Costa Rica; Cuba; Curaçao; Dominica; Dominican Republic; Grenada; Guadeloupe; Haiti; Honduras; Jamaica; Mexico; Montserrat; Netherlands Antilles (Bonaire); Nicaragua; Panama; Saint Barthélemy; Saint Kitts and Nevis; Saint Lucia; Saint Martin (French part); Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; Sint Maarten (Dutch part); Trinidad and Tobago; Turks and Caicos Islands; United States; United States Minor Outlying Islands; Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of; Virgin Islands, British
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Native:
Atlantic – western central
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: This species is common throughout its distribution range at intermediate abundances. The most common species of the genus in shallow to intermediate reefs.

There is no species specific population information available for this species. However, there is evidence that overall coral reef habitat has declined, and this is used as a proxy for population decline for this species. This species is particularly susceptible to bleaching, disease, and other threats and therefore population decline is based on both the percentage of destroyed reefs and critical reefs that are likely to be destroyed within 20 years (Wilkinson 2004). We assume that most, if not all, mature individuals will be removed from a destroyed reef and that on average, the number of individuals on reefs are equal across its range and proportional to the percentage destroyed reefs. Reef losses throughout the species' range have been estimated over three generations, two in the past and one projected into the future.

The age of first maturity of most reef building corals is typically three to eight years (Wallace 1999) and therefore we assume that average age of mature individuals is greater than eight years. Furthermore, based on average sizes and growth rates, we assume that average generation length is 10 years, unless otherwise stated. Total longevity is not known, but likely to be more than ten years. Therefore any population decline rates for the Red List assessment are measured over at least 30 years. Follow the link below for further details on population decline and generation length estimates.
For further information about this species, see Corals_SupportingDoc.pdf.
A PDF viewer such as Adobe Reader is required.
Population Trend: Unknown

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: This species is most common in fore reef environments from 5-30 m (but is more abundant from 10-20 m), but also occurs at low abundance in certain deeper back reef habitats and deep lagoons. The species has the potential to exhibit recovery, because of its reproductive strategy (e.g., brooding with moderate recruitment success).
Systems: Marine

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The major threat to the species is disease (white plague) and bleaching, which have both resulting in localized declines throughout the range. Also susceptible to black band disease and high sedimentation (especially when compromised by bleaching or disease). An outbreak of white plague was first identified in Florida in 1975 (Dustan, 1977) with a second occurrence in the same location in the early 1980s (Dustan and Halas, 1987). They predicted that this event would cause localized extinctions of the species; however, during later surveys, new recruits were observed. A more virulent form of white plague affected the species since the late 1990s in other locations throughout the wider Caribbean, which has been associated with high rates of mortality [get refs]. During the 2005 bleaching event, this species sustained high mortality off reefs off Puerto Rico and the associated islands, and Grenada, due to severe bleaching and a subsequent outbreak of plague.

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.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Listed on CITES Appendix II. In the US, it is present in many MPAs, including Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, Biscayne N.P., Dry Tortugas National Park, and Buck Island Reef National Monument. Also present in Hol Chan Marine Reserve (Belize), Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park (Bahamas). In US waters, it is illegal to harvest corals for commercial purposes.

Recommended measures for conserving this species include research in taxonomy, population, abundance and trends, ecology and habitat status, threats and resilience to threats, restoration action; identification, establishment and management of new protected areas; expansion of protected areas; recovery management; and disease, pathogen and parasite management. Artificial propagation and techniques such as cryo-preservation of gametes may become important for conserving coral biodiversity.

Bibliography [top]

Aeby, G.S., Work, T., Coles, S., and Lewis, T. 2006. Coral Disease Across the Hawaiian Archipelago. EOS, Transactions, American Geophysical Union 87(36): suppl.

Aronson, R.B. and Precht, W.F. 2001 b. White-band disease and the changing face of Caribbean coral reefs. Hydrobiologia 460: 25-38.

Bruno, J.F., Selig, E.R., Casey, K.S., Page, C.A., Willis, B.L., Harvell, C.D., 2007. Thermal Stress and Coral Cover as Drivers of Coral Disease Outbreaks Sweatman, H., and Melendy, A.M. PLoS Biol 5(6): e124.

Colgan, M.W. 1987. Coral Reef Recovery on Guam (Micronesia) After Catastrophic Predation by Acanthaster Planci. Ecology 68(6): 1592-1605.

Dustan, P. 1977. Vitality of reef coral population off Key Largo, Florida: recruitment and mortality. Environmental Geology 2: 51-58.

Dustan, P. and Halas, J.C. 1987. Changes in the reef-coral community of Carysfort Reef, Key Largo, Florida: 1974 to 1982. Coral Reefs 6:91-106. 6: 91-106.

Green, E.P. and Bruckner, A.W. 2000. The significance of coral disease epizootiology for coral reef conservation. Biological Conservation 96: 347-361.

Grimm, D.E. and Hopkins, T.S. 1977. Preliminar characterization of the octocorallian and scleractinian diversity at the Florida Middle Ground. Third International Coral Reef Symposium: 135-141.

Jacobson, D.M. 2006. Fine Scale Temporal and Spatial Dynamics of a Marshall Islands Coral Disease Outbreak: Evidence for Temperature Forcing. EOS, Transactions, American Geophysical Union 87(36): suppl.

Patterson, K.L., Porter, J.W., Ritchie, K.B., Polson, S.W., Mueller E., Peters, E.C., Santavy, D.L., Smith, G.W. 2002. The etiology of white pox, a lethal disease of the Caribbean elkhorn coral, Acropora palmata. Proc Natl Acad Sci 99: 8725-8730.

Porter, J.W., Dustan, P., Jaap, W.C., Patterson, K.L., Kosmynin, V., Meier, O.W., Patterson, M.E., and Parsons, M. 2001. Patterns of spread of coral disease in the Florida Keys. Hydrobiologia 460(1-3): 1-24.

Sutherland, K.P., Porter, J.W., and Torres, C. 2004. Disease and immunity in Caribbean and Indo-Pacific zooxanthellate corals. Marine ecology progress series 266: 273-302.

Veron, J.E.N. 2000. Corals of the World, Volume 3. Australian Institute of Marine Science, Townsville MC, Australia.

Wallace, C. C. 1999. Staghorn Corals of the World: a revison of the coral genus Acropora. CSIRO, Collingwood.

Weil, E. 2003. The corals and coral reefs of Venezuela. In: Jorge Cortes (ed.), Latin American Coral Reefs, Elseview Science B.V.

Weil, E. 2004. Coral reef diseases in the wider Caribbean. In: E. Rosenberg and Y. Loya (eds), Coral Health and Diseases, pp. 35-68. Springer Verlag, NY.

Weil, E. 2006. Coral, Ocotocoral and sponge diversity in the reefs of the Jaragua National Park, Dominican Republic. Rev. Bio. Trop. 54(2): 423-443.

Wilkinson, C. 2004. Status of coral reefs of the world: 2004. Australian Institute of Marine Science, Townsville, Queensland, Australia.

Willis, B., Page, C and E. Dinsdale. 2004. Coral disease on the Great Barrier Reef. In: E. Rosenber and Y. Loya (eds), Coral Health and Disease, pp. 69-104. Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.


Citation: Aronson, R., Bruckner, A., Moore, J., Precht, B. & E. Weil 2008. Mycetophyllia ferox. In: The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 30 August 2014.
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