[Coral-List] Heliopora Coerulea the Blue Coral found in Fiji

tawake_a at usp.ac.fj tawake_a at usp.ac.fj
Wed Dec 8 17:09:25 EST 2004

Dear Coral list
Very interesting about Heliopora in Fiji. It was my 1985 study which was cited by Di 
Walker. (Zann L.P. and Bolton. (1985) The distribution, abundance and ecology of the 
blue coral Heliopora coerulea in the Pacific. Coral Reefs. p 123-134.)

Heliopora or blue coral has not been reported live from Fiji before. It is a strange coral, 
(only 2 species in entire Order!), and unrelated to the scleractinians (other reef-building 
coral). It also has a strange global distribution (the focus of my study). It is very ancient and 
its range has contracted in geological time (100 million years) - I suggested because of 
competition from the scleractininans, and climate changes (it is a warm water species, 
>25o). It is present in Rotuma, common in Tuvalu and abundant in Kiribati. Interestingly, 
it did not appear to bleach in 1998, 2000 episodes in Indonesia, so it might be an indicator 
of past climate changes. 

Its rarity in some places makes it of biodiversity/conservation interest. Where it is rare those 
places certainly should be protected. (eg there was a major controversy in Okinawa when a 
unique heliopora community was threatened by airport extensions.). I would be interested in 
assisting conc=servation measures.
Leon Zann

Professor Leon Zann
Marine Studies Programme
University of the South Pacific 
Laucala Campus. Suva. Fiji.
Tel: 679 321 2933 , 679 330 5272 
email: zann_l at usp.ac.fj

On 6 Dec 2004 at 0:22, Di Walker (MES) wrote:

> Dear Coral Listers,
> Upon a recent Reef Check survey Dive in the Mamanuca Islands just West
> of the Main Island of Viti Levu in Fiji, I happened to chance upon the
> Blue coral, Heliopora coerulea growing in a section of the patch reef
> that was being surveyed. Having dived the Mamanuca Islands extensively
> and never having observed the coral I was very much of the same
> opinion of most experts that this coral just did not exist in Fiji.
> Low Isles on the northern Great Barrier Reef probably represent the
> southern-most reported presence of Heliopora and American Samoa the
> eastern-most, with a line being drawn at the Island of Rotuma for
> distribution of the coral into Fiji. Experts have declared this coral
> extinct in Fiji with no recent observations having been made of the
> coral being alive. Reports made in 1985 consider the presence of the
> coral in Fiji doubtful as it was not recorded in beach sediments or
> coral assemblages studied in and around the Fiji Islands. The study
> also declared that the genus was formerly present in Fiji since
> Heliopora fijiensis was named by Hoffmeister (1945) from Miocene
> deposits on the Fiji Island chain of Lau.
> The patch reef that the Heliopora coerulea was observed growing on was
> very intact. A large massive porites colony measuring 5m by 5m was
> observed close to the growth site as were numerous unusually large
> Giant clams (Tridacna Squamosa) with the shell measuring over 70cm in
> length. Although this site is surrounded by a resort and could be
> frequently used by the two neighbouring island villages for fishing
> and collection of invertebrates, it appears to be relatively
> untouched. The colonies were small with maximum height of 20cm and
> width of about 40cm. There were many colonies observed but only on a
> small section of the reef. This does raise the question of whether
> these colonies are ancient relics, due to the obvious intact state of
> the reef or new invaders to the group due to their small colony size.
> Exciting find for those lovers of Blue coral out there.
> Best regards,
> Di Walker
> Project Manager
> Mamanuca Environment Society
> P.O. Box 10125, Nadi Airport, Fiji Islands
> Office: (679) 672 3433
> Mobile: (679) 992 0992
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 Alifereti Tawake, Scientific Officer, Institute of Applied Science, 
 University of the South Pacific, P.O Box 1168, Suva, FIJI.
 Tel: 679-3212977, 679-3592732, 679-3391339 (H), 9216122(mbl)
 Fax: 679-330 0373, website: http//www.usp.ac.fj/ias
   And	 'Kedra Sasalu Tawamudu na noda Kawa- Fish for the Future'
 Locally Managed Marine Area (LMMA) Network Project Liaison Officer (Fiji & Asia-Pac)
 LMMA NCT member, visit www.lmmanetwork.org

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