Montastraea annularis


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Montastraea annularis
Species Authority: (Ellis and Solander 1786)
Common Name(s):
English Boulder Star Coral
Taxonomic Notes: M. annularis (Weil and Knowlton 1994) has recently been split into three species including M. faveolata and M. franksi. Consequently, most studies prior to 1994 do not distinguish between the three species, and information on population is difficult to disaggregate for the three taxa.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Endangered A2ace 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)
This species is listed as Endangered as the species is believed to have undergone a decline exceeding 50% over the past 30 years due in particular to the effects of disease and bleaching, as well as other anthropogenic-related factors. Current rates of mortality are exceeding growth and recruitment, and current threats are increasing. Due to their extreme longevity, low rates of recruitment and long generation times, scope for recovery of populations is limited. If current trends continue, this species may warrant listing in a higher category of threat.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:This species occurs in the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, Florida, the Bahamas, and Bermuda.
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; 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:
Atlantic – western central
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: In the last 20 years, there has been a severe decline in the overall cover and abundance of M. annularis in several parts of the Caribbean. For example, 90% of the cover of the species was lost in the coastal waters off Jamaica from 1980 through 1994 (Hughes 1994). Off the coast of eastern Puerto Rico, declines in cover were recorded at between 40 and 60% (Hernandez-Delgado 2005), at around 40% off south-eastern Puerto Rico (E. Weil pers. comm.), 50% off Mona Island (Bruckner and Bruckner 2006), and 72% in St John, US Virgin Islands, between 1988 and 1999 (Edmunds and Elahi 2007). Dustan and Halas (1987) observed a 31% decline in cover of M. annularis complex on Carysfort Reef (Key Largo) between 1975-1982, with a 21% decline in colony size.

Off the northern coast of Belize, declines upwards of 90% were recorded specifically for M. annularis (Burke et al. 2004).

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 generation length estimates.
For further information about this species, see Corals_SupportingDoc.pdf.
A PDF viewer such as Adobe Reader is required.
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: This is a common species. M. annularis is found from 0.5-82 m (Reed 1985), and is often the most abundant coral from 1-10 m, especially in semi-protected reef environments; it is frequently a dominant species of lagoons and upper reef slopes.
Systems: Marine

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The major threats to the species are infectious diseases (white plague, yellow band and black band disease) and bleaching. Other threats include predation by Sparisoma viride (Stoplight Parrotfish), hurricane damage, and loss of habitat at the recruitment stage due to algal overgrowth and sedimentation, as well as localized impacts due to bioerosion by sponges and other organisms, and other diseases.

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). 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 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: In the US, it is present in many MPAs, including Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, Biscayne N.P., Dry Tortugas National Park, Buck Island Reef National Monument and Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. Also present Hol Chan Marine Reserve (Belize), Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park (Bahamas). In US waters, it is illegal to harvest corals for commercial purposes. (Aronson, R., Precht, W., Moore, J., Weil, E., and Bruckner, A. pers. comm.)

All corals are listed on CITES Appendix II.

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.

Bruckner, A.W. and Bruckner, R.J. 2006. Impact of yellow-band disease (YBD) on Montastraea annularis (species complex) populations on remote reefs off Mona Island, Puerto Rico. Diseases of Aquatic Organisms 69: 67-73.

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.

Burke, C.D., McHenry, T.M., Bischoff, W.D., Huttig, E.S., Yang, W., Thorndyke, L. 2004. Coral mortality, recovery and reef degradation at Mexico Rocks Patch Reef Complex, Northern Belize, Central America: 1995–1997. Hydrobiologia 530/531: 481-487.

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

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.

Edmunds, P.J. and Elahi, R. 2007. The demographics of a 15-year decline in cover of the Caribbean reef coral Montastraea annularis. Ecological Monographs 77(1): 3-18.

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

Hernández-Delgado, E.A. 2005. Historia natural, caracterización, distribución y estado actual de los arrecifes de coral Puerto Rico. In: R.L. Joglar (ed.), Biodiversidad de Puerto Rico: Vertebrados Terrestres y Ecosistemas, pp. 281-356. Editorial Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña, San Juan, PR.

Hughes, T. P. 1994. Catastrophes, phase shifts and large scale degradation of a Caribbean coral reef. Science 265: 1547-1551.

IUCN. 2008. 2008 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Available at: (Accessed: 5 October 2008).

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.

Reed, J.K. 1985. Deepest distribution of Atlantic hermatypic corals discovered in the Bahamas. Fifth International Coral Reef Congress 6: 249-254. Tahiti.

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. Montastraea annularis. In: The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.3. <>. Downloaded on 28 March 2015.
Disclaimer: To make use of this information, please check the <Terms of Use>.
Feedback: If you see any errors or have any questions or suggestions on what is shown on this page, please provide us with feedback so that we can correct or extend the information provided