Acropora palmata grows best in clear water free from excess nutrients, runoff or algal blooms. These delicate corals are particularly sensitive to sediment, as they are among the least effective of the reef-building corals at trapping and removing sediment from their surface.
Prolonged exposure to high water temperatures and other stresses may lead to bleaching, which is the loss of zooxanthellae (symbiotic algae) from the coral. These algae give corals their color, provide food to the coral, and remove some of the corals waste products. If these stresses continue, the corals will die. The organism requires light and space for skeletal growth (calcification) and to repair human, storm, or predator damage. The coral needs to reach a critical size for sexual maturity and reproduction. They spawn at full moon, usually in July or August.
-- Adapted from the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration and the National Center for Coral Reef Research
This is a large branching coral with exceptionally thick and sturdy antler-like branches. Elkhorn coral was formerly the dominant species in shallow water (1-5 m depth) throughout the Caribbean and on the Florida Reef Tract, forming extensive, densely aggregated thickets (stands) in areas of heavy surf. Colonies are fast growing: branches increase in length by 5-10 cm per year, with colonies reaching their maximum size in approximately 10-12 years. Over the last 10,000 years this is one of the three most important Caribbean corals contributing to reef growth and development and providing essential fishery habitat. Its northern limit is Biscayne National Park, Florida, and it extends south to Venezuela; it is not found in Bermuda. Colonies prefer exposed reef crest and fore reef environments in depths of less than 6 meters, although isolated corals may occur to 20 meters. Once found in continuous stands that extended along the front side of most coral reefs, the characteristic "Acropora palmata zone" supported a diverse assemblage of other invertebrates and fish. These zones have been largely transformed into rubble fields with few, isolated living colonies. This organism was on the list of proposed endangered species published by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in March, 2005.
This organism was sent to the McDonnell Genome Institute for survey sequencing (11,024 whole genome shotgun reads) to attempt to make an initial assessment of the genomic landscape as an aid in determining which coral genome would be sequenced. The survey sequence is complete. The National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), National Institutes of Health (NIH), provided the funding for the Acropora palmata genome survey sequence.