[Coral-List] Coral species list for Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System

Douglas Fenner douglasfenner at yahoo.com
Thu Apr 21 16:41:20 EDT 2011

     Almost all reef-building coral species in the Caribbean have ranges  
throughout the Caribbean, since the Caribbean is a relatively small  body of 
water (compared to the Indo-Pacific, for instance).  Most all of  the species 
have already been found in places like Belize, Cozumel,  Akumal, Cancun area, 
and so on, and some of the others may be there but  just haven't been found 
there yet.  There are a very few which have not  been found in the NW or W 
Caribbean at all, and might (might) not be  there (to prove they are not there 
is like trying to prove the null  hypothesis).  One that is pretty sure not to 
be there is Millepora  squarrosa.  It is only known from the southeast 
Caribbean, and reports  elsewhere are likely all errors.  Millepora  complanata 
can look a bit like it, but if you look in the Humann book  you'll see M. 
squarrosa is actually quite distinctive and easy to  recognize.  A second 
species is Leptoseris cailleti, a small deep-water  species that is rarely 
reported anywhere.  Millepora striata is rarely  reported, but I reported it 
from Belize, so it is in the MesoAmerican  reef system.  There are a few other 
rarely reported or less well known  species that may or may not be there, such 
as Madracis senaria, Madracis  asperula, Madracis carambi and Porites branneri.  
The situation is  quite different with the azooxanthellate corals.  How many are 
present  in an area is poorly known, probably because they are small and 
cryptic,  but they may be patchy as well, since they typically live in very  
specific habitats like cavern roofs that are searched less often and  less 
completely than open habitats.  Also, their identification is not a  trivial 
matter for most  of us reef biologists, most require sending a sample to the one 
or two  people in the whole world who are experts on their taxonomy (I'm not one 
of them, Dr. Stephen Cairns at the Smithsonian is one, and can put you in touch 
with the others).
       For the zooxanthellate species, you can find range maps in Veron (2000),  
but it appears he fills in all the Caribbean for any species found  somewhere in 
the Caribbean.  He's working on a much more detailed  database called "Coral 

      To my way of thinking Belize has a true barrier reef, but the rest of the 
MesoAmerican reef system is not a barrier reef as far as I know, but I'm no 
expert on it.  A barrier reef has to have a significant lagoon between it and 
land, and my impression is outside Belize, reefs are pretty much fringing.  I've 
also heard of the Florida Keys reefs referred to as a barrier reef.  I prefer 
the older name, "Florida Reef Tract" since as far as I know it consists of a 
series of relatively small reefs with wide gaps between them, and more 
continuous ridges of hard grounds that are not currently living coral reefs and 
don't get close to the surface.  Gene Shinn also tells me that the Florida Keys 
reefs have been called bank reefs.  That said, most reefs are not just coral 
reefs, they are coralgal reefs or even algal coral reefs, with coralline algae 
and other calcareous algae contributing as much or more calcium buildup than the 
corals.  Also, the Great Barrier Reef is not a single reef but a whole series of 
about two  thousand reefs, with gaps of various sizes (a maze that in effect is 
a barrier to  navigation unless you have GPS and a very good map system and are 
a good  navigator).  There is one section that is a nearly continuous barrier, 
the section called the "Ribbon Reefs."  I'd also remind people of the barrier 
reef in New Caledonia, which is like Belize and the Ribbon Reefs in the GBR, a 
nearly continuous barrier with some small gaps.  New Caledonia is said to have 
the longest continuous barrier reef in the world, and likely that is not widely 
known.  Anyhow, "MesoAmerican reef system"  sounds fine with me, as does Belize 
Barrier Reef, but adding barrier to  MesoAmerican does not, nor does it for 
Florida.  It seems like today  people think the word "barrier" adds charisma, so 
they want to call  their reef a barrier reef.  Fringing reef ought to also have 
some  charisma, think of the Ningaloo fringing reef in western Australia,  
longest fringing reef in the world.  Not nearly as well known as the  GBR, but a 
huge and amazing reef.  Think of Indonesia, which has more  coral reefs than any 
other country in the world (slightly more than  Australia), I bet most of their 
reefs are fringing.  Also among the most  diverse in the world, a true world 
treasure.  Fringing is good.        Doug

Cheers,  Doug

Fenner, D. 2001.  Biogeography of three Caribbeancorals (Scleractinia); 

    coccineainvades the Gulf of Mexico.  Bulletin of Marine Science 69: 

Fenner, D.  1999.  New Observations on the Stony Coral Species (Scleractinia,
    Milliporidae, Stylaseridae) of Belize(Central America) and Cozumel(Mexico).
    Bulletin of Marine Science 64: 143-154.

Fenner, D. P. 1993. Some reefs and corals of Roatan (Honduras), Cayman Brac, and
    Little Cayman.  Atoll Research Bulletin 388: 1-30.
Weerdt, W. H.  de.  1990.  Discontinuous distribution of the tropical west 
Atlantic  hydrocoral Millepora squarrosa.  Beaufort. 41: 195-203.

Douglas Fenner
Coral Reef Monitoring Ecologist
Dept Marine & Wildlife Resources
American Samoa

Mailing address:
PO Box 3730
Pago Pago, AS 96799

work phone 684  633 4456

Sharply increased mass loss from glaciers and ice caps in the Canadian Arctic 

Between  the periods 2004–2006 and 2007–2009, the rate of mass loss sharply  
increased from 31 ± 8 Gt yr 1 to 92 ± 12 Gt yr 1 in direct response to  warmer 
summer temperatures, to which rates of ice loss are highly  sensitive (64 ± 14 
Gt yr 1 per 1 K increase).

Gardner et al Nature 


From: Brittany Huntington <brittanyhuntington at gmail.com>
To: coral-list at coral.aoml..noaa.gov
Sent: Thu, April 21, 2011 4:13:17 AM
Subject: [Coral-List] Coral species list for Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System

I am interested in determining the regional species pool for scleractinian
corals within the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System.  Published reports weigh
in around 60 species from what I have found but would appreciate any leads
to a taxonomic list of coral species observed in the region.

Thanks in advance,
Brittany Huntington

Brittany Huntington
Doctoral Candidate
Division of Marine Biology and Fisheries
Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science
University of Miami
4600 Rickenbacker Causeway
Miami, FL 33149
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