staghorncoral_page
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NOAA Fisheries Office of Protected Resources

Staghorn Coral

Staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis) is a cylindrical coral with branches that can grow over 6.5 feet. Their branches resemble male deer antlers, earning it the name Staghorn. Staghorn coral have an organic diet of byproducts of photosynthesis, eating live prey, such as small fish and zooplankton. This particular type of coral has been recognized as one of the three most important Caribbean corals in terms of contribution to reef growth and fish habitat.

Staghorn coral occur in back reef and fore reef environments ranging from 0-100 feet deep. This type of coral is found specifically in the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and western Gulf of Mexico. The National Marine Fisheries Service has declared the habitat of Staghorn Coral critical in Florida, Puerto Rico, St. John, St. Thomas, and St. Croix as of 2008. Staghorn coral are listed as threatened and proposed endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

The largest threats to staghorn coral populations include disease outbreak, hurricanes, human impacts, bleaching, sedimentation, predation, and algae overgrowth.
Staghorn coral reproduce by asexual fragmentation, which makes recovery from storms easy. Recovery from disease outbreaks or bleaching, however, is extremely difficult.