Elegance coral
(Catalaphyllia jardinei)
Elegance coral is a beautiful and evolutionary distinct species that can be found living as a lone polyp or within a colony. Large pink tubular tentacles contrast with a rich green corallite body to give the species a unique appearance. This species is considered rare but widespread across its range where it typically inhabits shallow and turbid waters. Not surprisingly, the attractiveness of this species means it is heavily targeted in the aquarium trade where, for almost a decade, over 20,000 recorded specimens have been exported annually from Indonesia alone.

Like other corals it is also threatened by coral bleaching, ocean acidification and damage from human activities such as destructive fishing, pollution and coastal development. In the South China Sea, part of this species range, there has been an 80% decline in coral cover over just 30 years.
Urgent Conservation Actions
This coral is a conservation focus in the EDGE Fellowship programme. Additionally the European Union has banned imports of this species from the Solomon Islands.
Elegance coral is found across a wide geographical range from the east coast of Africa to the coastlines of Northern Australia.

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13th Jul 12
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29th Aug 11
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25th Feb 11
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11th Jan 11
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Evolutionary Distinctiveness
Order: Anthozoa
Family: Euphyllidae
This species is monophyletic meaning it is the only member of its genus. With no close relatives, it is highly evolutionarily distinct.

Around 20cm across
This beautiful coral possesses a dark, velvety green skeleton from which polyps with large tubular, pink tipped tentacles emerge. Additionally this species has a distinctively striped oral disk. This coral is often solitary however polyps may join together to form colonies which have wide ‘V shaped’ valleys. Catalaphyllia jardinei can reach about 30cm in length and 20cm in width, and has a ‘fleshy’ appearance though it is still considered a hard coral due to its calcium carbonate skeleton.
As a hard coral species, the polyps of this species exude calcium carbonate as they grow. This mineral compound is used to form exoskeletons (corallites) around the fleshy polyp, offering protection. Specific oceanic conditions are required for polyps to synthesize and exude calcium carbonate.

As with most hard corals, this species is a zooxanthellate organism meaning that it houses small photosynthetic algae (zooxanthellae) within its body. This relationship allows the coral to gain energy produced by its symbiont in photosynthesis. Additional nourishment is provided through the catching of prey with its extended fleshy polyps.

Unlike most other hard corals, this species can be found living alone (free living) as well as within colonies.

This species can reproduce sexually by spawning. In corals, spawning is often synchronized within and/or between species leading to spectacular large scale events that can be visible from space. Fertilised eggs form free-swimming planulae (coral larvae) which will settle once they find suitable substrate and eventually develop into a polyp. Planulae of this species require large objects to settle on.

An overview of hard coral ecology can be found here.
Catalaphyllia jardinei is found in areas of high water turbidity where there is a reduced risk of bleaching. This coral grows at depths of up to 30m. There is an indication that this species prefers to grow on muddy sandy bottoms and where there is a high level of plant cover - such as sea grasses and algae - in the surrounding area.
Catalaphyllia jardinei occupies a large home range. Longitudinally this range extends from the East African coast to Fiji and in latitude from Japan to Madagascar and Central Australia.
Population Estimate
No specific population information has been recorded for this species. However as this coral is conspicuous and easy to identify, observations can be made with confidence and current consensus is that the species is rare.
Population Trend
This species population is considered to be declining in size. Globally some 19% of coral reefs have been lost whilst high proportions (75%) remain under threat.
Vulnerable (VU) 2012.2 IUCN Red List
The Elegance coral is likely subject to many of the threats to which coral reefs are subject worldwide. These can be viewed here. There are also a number of threats to which this species has a more acute risk.

The most significant threat to this species is that of collection to supply the wildlife trend. Despite year on year declines in quota limits for live exports (as set by CITES), there were still 20,000 live specimens traded in 2012, down from 28,500 in 2005. Many more specimens were likely traded through the illegal wildlife trade.

This high volume of trade is thought to be particularly unsustainable for this species and it is probable that localized extinctions will occur over a timescale of just a few years as a direct result of wild specimen extraction. A lack of stipulation on how to extract these corals from the wild may also result in the adoption of damaging practices.

Much of this species native habitat lies within areas of high human activity such as the South China Sea. This region has seen an 80% decline in coastal corals over just 30 years. This trend is the result of multiple concurrent stressors affecting coral reefs in the region.
Conservation Underway
The elegance coral is an EDGE focal species and one of three corals being actively conserved through the project of EDGE fellow Grace Quiton. Her work focuses on enhancing existing conservation strategies, notably marine protected areas (MPAs). Using three EDGE corals species as flagships for coral reef conservation, the project engages local coastal communities, particularly youths, in providing stronger support for marine conservation.

This species also resides in a number of existing and effective MPAs such as Chagos, whilst the there are several regional conservation initiatives. The ‘Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and food Security’ is encouraging people-centered initiatives in conservation and sustainable development and is supported by the Australian and US Governments as well as a number of NGOs and charities. Additional conservation efforts such as the ‘Coral Reef Initiatives in the Pacific programme’ are helping to establish new MPAs across a number of countries and there has also been success at developing sustainable fisheries markets.

Globally, some protection is offered to all corals through their inclusion in CITES Appendix II, and additionally, parts of this species known range overlap with MPAs. The import of this species to the EU from the Solomon Islands is also banned.

This project supports in-country EDGE Fellows to help conserve relevant EDGE species

The project will develop and implement a conservation action plan for the mushroom coral (Heliofungia actiniformis), in the Polillo Islands in Luzon. This will act as a flagship for broader marine conservation action, including community and local government engagement and capacity building, as well as the implementation of coastal marine resource management plans.

This project will investigate the use of Marine Protected Areas for conserving three EDGE coral species in the Seychelles. It will investigate the presence/absence of the three species on carbonate and granitic reefs within Protected Areas. It will compare size distribution of EDGE corals within and outside of MPAs to establish whether MPAs are sufficient to protect these corals. Surveys will be carried out at two different depths to compare EDGE coral depth preference, to provide information to the government on the effectiveness of MPAs, for EDGE corals.

Conservation Proposed
With no suggested conservation measures, the species would benefit from further research into all aspects of its ecology, therefore allowing for scientifically informed conservation proposals.

Additionally an increase in global MPAs and stronger legislation to protect reefs from human threats would benefit all coral species.

Around Southeast Asia in particular there is need for an increase in public awareness of ecosystem services as well as better enforcement of existing legislation and financial support to reverse trends in reef decline.

More must also be done to curb global emissions of greenhouse gases in order to prevent climate change and ocean acidification. Additionally, more timely access to national trade data for this species would benefit monitoring of the species trade.
Associated EDGE Community members

Working on EDGE Coral Species in Southern Leyte, Philippines

A marine Research Officer working on the effectiveness of MPAs in protecting three EDGE coral species.

Burke, L et al. 2011. Reefs at Risk Revisited. World Resources Institute. Washington DC.

Bruckner, A. W. 2001. Proceedings of the international workshop on the trade in stony corals: Development of sustainable management guidelines. NOAA Fisheries. Accessed  19th December 2012.

Cites national export quotas for 2005 through 2012. Page 22. Accessed on 05 December 2012.

Hughes, T. P., Huang, H., Young, M. A. 2012. The Wicked Problem of China’s Disappearing Coral Structure. Conservation Biology. Accessed 05 December 2012.

Turak, E., Sheppard, C. & Wood, E. 2008. Catalaphyllia jardinei. In: IUCN 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 05 December 2012.

Veron, J.E.N. (2000) Corals of the world. Australian Institute of Marine Science, Townville, Australia.

Wilkinson, C. 2008. Status of coral reefs of the world: 2008. Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network and Center, Townsville, Australia.

if you can provide new information to update this species account or to correct any errors, please email us at info@edgeofexistence.org

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