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Elkhorn coral

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noun, plural: elkhorn corals

A coral species that resembles the horns of an elk


An elkhorn coral is a stony coral species. Its name is derived from its resemblance to the horns (antlers) of an elk. It is highly branched and structurally complex. Thus, it serves as a habitat for many reef species, e.g. parrot fish, lobsters, and snapper shrimps. It forms a symbiotic relationship with zooxanthellae that live within its tissues. Thus, this coral species has a coloration ranging from brown to yellowish brown.

The elkhorn coral is one of the most important hard corals involved in coral reef building in Caribbean. It is also found in the Bahamas and the Florida Keys. However, a large percentage of elkhorn coral colonies has been lost due to predation, diseases (e.g. white band disease, black band disease, white pox disease, etc.), coral bleaching, human activity, and damage from storm.

The elkorn coral inhabits the shallow waters with temperature ranging from 26 to 30 °C. The elkhorn coral colonies can grow to a rate of 5 to 10 cm in a year and may reach up to 3.7 m in diameter.1

Scientific classification:

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Cnidaria
  • Class: Anthozoa
  • Order: Scleractinia
  • Family: Acroporidae
  • Genus: Acropora

Scientific name:

  • Acropora palmata [Lamarck, 1816]

See also:

1 Gladfelter, E. H. Monahan, R. K., Gladfelter, W. B. (1978). Growth rates of the five reef-building corals in the Northeastern Caribbean. Bulletin of Marine Science, 28(4): 728-734.