Coral Reef question for National Geo Channel]

Dave Barnes d.barnes at
Thu Sep 26 23:36:40 EDT 2002

Dear Kevin and Kimberly,

We have dated a 6.2 m core collected by Peter Isdale from a massive colony
of Porites growing on Abraham Reef, which lies towards the southern end of
the Great Barrier Reef.  We have reliable dating (say plus/minus 3 years) to
1479.  We dated with reasonable confidence additional growth back to 1330.
The colony from which the core was removed was 7.5 m high and about 31m in
circumference.  We estimate that at least a further 100 years growth was not

Size and age do not necessarily equate.  Porites extension rate increases
with water temperature (Lough & Barnes, 2000, JEMBE).  Thus large colonies
in warmer waters are likely to be younger than similar sized colonies
growing in cooler water.  There is also considerable natural variability.
For example, a core from an 8m high colony with a circumference of 25m
growing at Sanctuary Reef, which is nearby Abraham Reef, was reliably dated
back to 1501.  In recent years this colony grew at 9.4mm per year whereas
the colony at Abraham Reef grew at 13.0 mm per year over the same time
period. Average annual water temperature for this region is 24.5 degC.

Researchers at the Australian National University are using colonies of
Diploastrea heliopora.  These extend about 3.5mm per year in Indonesian
waters, where we would expect massive Porites to grow at about 20mm per
year.  They have a core from a 1.5m high colony that they have dated back to
about 1550.  Colonies of D. heliopora up to 3m high have been described.

Cheers - Janice Lough & Dave Barnes.

Australian Institute of Marine Science
PMB 3, Mail Centre
Townsville  Qld  4810

-----Original Message-----
From: owner-coral-list at
[mailto:owner-coral-list at]On Behalf Of Keven Reed
Sent: Friday, 27 September 2002 01:20
To: coral-list at
Subject: Re: Coral Reef question for National Geo Channel]

Dear Kimberly White Erlinger,
    In 1992 the Guinness Book of Records had published the largest,
discrete, stony coral colony (corals in the order Scleractinia) to be
Galaxea fascicularis at Iriomote island in Okinawa, the southern
prefecture of Japan.  Okinawa, Japan is by the way, closer to Taiwan
than Tokyo.
    Knowing this, when I dove on a much larger discrete colony of coral,
Porites lutea, off the north shore of Ie Shima, Okinawa, Japan, I
returned with cameras, measuring line, etc. and my dive partner, Russell
and sent the documentation into Guinness with the following details:
    At approximately 17 meters depth (55 fsw), 26 degrees 44' N, 127
degrees 46.8 E in Okinawa is a high raised dome pinnacle of one solid
colony of
encrusting Porites lutea.  The colony is undercut so on approach
underwater from the east, swimming west, it appears in profile as a
giant mushroom
as big as a small house.  The colony was photographed with a 20 mm lens
a Nikonos III and the circumference of the colony was 31 meters (100
which definitely exceeded the 59+ feet circumference of Dr. Shirai's
Galaxea at Iriomote.
    I transmitted this information electronically to Dr. "Charlie" Veron
and Dr. Peter Isdale in Australia in 1995, and learned that they had
simultaneously measured and reported to Guinness a Porites coral colony
measuring almost eleven meters in diameter and over 7.5 meters in height
on the GBR.
    So, I'm naturally curious what species of coral the Chinese are
referring to and if its dimensions exceed that of the Porites I reported
in Okinawa or the one the Australians reported from the GBR.??
    Another interesting sidebar about what constitutes a 'discreet'
colony can develop when one notes that some stony corals can use
and asexual cloning as well as sexual reproduction to proliferate.  Is a
'discrete colony' the result of one sexually produced planula (larvum)
settling on the substrate, or do asexual clones count as the same colony
in your definition?  Sincerely, Keven Reed, OD (ISRS member)

Joint Readiness Clinical Advisory Board:  (301) 619-2186
FAX:  (301) 619-2355
1014 Mercer Place
Frederick, MD 21701

----- Original Message -----
To: "coral-list" <coral-list at>
Sent: Friday, September 20, 2002 4:44 PM
Subject: [Fwd: Coral Reef question for National Geo Channel]

> From:  kerlinge at
> To: coral-list
> Subject:  Coral Reef question for National Geo Channel
> Hello,
> I'm a researcher at the National Geographic Channels International. On
> reviewing
> a script, I found a claim that the "big mushroom" coral off Green Island
> in
> Taiwan is possibly considered the largest and oldest independent coral.
> Is this
> true? Can someone confirm this for me? I haven't been able to confirm
> this via
> the internet.
> Thank you very much for your time--
> Kimberly White Erlinger
> Researcher, NGCI
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