Introduction. This coral species was once abundant in the Caribbean, but is currently rare due to massive population declines over the past few decades that have been linked to climate change (Eakin et al., 2010). Coral is also are very key in controlling how much carbon dioxide is in the ocean water. B) Key habitat for lobsters, snappers, and other reef fishes has improved. It, along with elkhorn coral and star corals (boulder, lobed, and mountainous) built Caribbean coral reefs over the last 5,000 years.Staghorn coral can form dense groups called “thickets” in very shallow water. Behind the reef front, more protected areas are occupied with more delicate species such as staghorn coral ( Acropora cervicornis ), finger ( Stylophora ), cluster ( Pocillopora ) and lace corals ( Pocillopora damicornis ). Elkhorn coral grows into thick, robust branches and is the most important reef-building species in the Caribbean. Staghorn corals grow fast to shade out other corals and gain more space on the reef. Cool facts. But fast is relative in the coral world; a colony of staghorn coral may only grow four inches (10 cm) per year. Elkhorn coral received its common name due to its resemblance to elk antlers. Coral decline over the last few decades has greatly changed the structure and functioning of coral reef ecosystems. Colonial reef-building corals have evolved a broad spectrum of colony morphologies based on coordinated asexual reproduction of polyps on a secreted calcium carbonate skeleton. The elkhorn coral Acropora palmata is a branching, reef‐building species that inhabits shallow tropical Caribbean reefs. The elkhorn coral’s complex large and thick green colored branches can reach a length of 6.5 feet (two meters). In addition, coral reefs protect coasts from strong currents and waves by slowing down the water before it gets to the shore. Staghorn coral is one of the most important corals in the Caribbean. However, over the last several decades these corals have suffered severe population declines due to disease, hurricanes, and coral bleaching events. Like its thinner cousin staghorn coral, elkhorn colonies provide complex habitat for juvenile fish. Without coral, the amount of carbon dioxide in the water would rise dramatically and that would affect all living things on Earth. A) Staghorn coral has been decimated by the pathogen, and Elkhorn coral has taken its place. These starfish are known to be more successful at preying on large swaths of coral reefs when the corals are already stressed. Though cnidarians have been shown to possess and use similar developmental genes to bilaterians during larval development and polyp formation, little is known about genetic regulation of colony morphology in … Even recreational diving on reefs takes a toll: boat anchors break off coral heads, and corals die where divers kick or grab them. A coral that occurs in the region is elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata). Photo 5/7 :Elkhorn coral and staghorn coral were once dominant coral species in the wider Caribbean. These outbreaks may be a result of overfishing of the crown-of-thorns starfish’s primary predator, the giant triton or they may be a natural phenomenon. C) Algal species take the place of the dead coral, and the fish community is dominated by herbivores. You will notice that each large blade ends with several axial corallites, which helps identify it as an Acropora coral.