Parasimplastrea coral
(Parasimplastrea sheppardi)
EN.
Overview
Parasimplastrea sheppardi is a colonial species which grows either in an encrusting (form a layer over substrate) or submassive (bulbous growth with primary branching) manner. The species has a limited distribution, found mainly along north-east African and Southwest Asian coastlines. In these regions it occurs at shallow depths and suffers from high exposure to human activity. The Fleshy polyps are surrounded by a brown corallite and have a green centre. The species is distinct from others in its family and is monospecific, a description that simply states it is the only member of its genus.
Urgent Conservation Actions
No targeted conservation action is being completed for this species.
Distribution
Arabian Gulf, Iranian Gulf and the West Indian Ocean

 
Fact
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ARKive image - <i>Parasimplastrea sheppardi</i>
Evolutionary Distinctiveness
Order: Scleractinia
Family: Faviidae
Parasimplastrea sheppardi is monospecific meaning it is the sole member of its genus. It is also particularly distinct from other members of its family (Faviidae). In fact, recent genetic research suggests the species is highly diverged from the family Faviidae and is better suited to be included in a different family, Mussidae, within which there are genetically similar species.

 
Description
Size: 
Encrusting or submassive
Colony growth is either encrusting (forms a layer over substrate) or submassive (bulbous growth with primary branching) and individual corallites are brown with a green centre. Corallites are 4-6mm in diameter and each houses a fleshy polyp.
Ecology
An overview of hard coral ecology can be viewed here.

Parasimplastrea sheppardi is a colonial, stony species meaning that as the individual animals (polyps) of this species grow, they exude calcium carbonate to form exoskeletons (corallites) for protection. Specific oceanic conditions are required for polyps to synthesize and exude calcium carbonate

As a zooxanthellate coral Parasimplastrea sheppardi obtains the majority of its energy from a symbiotic relationship with algae called zooxanthellae. These live in the tissue of coral and require sunlight for photosynthesis, a process that produces food/energy for the algae and its host coral. Additional nourishment is provided through the catching of prey using fleshy polyps which this species extends day and night.

Little is known about this species’ reproductive habits. Most corals can reproduce both sexually (through sperm and egg release) and asexually (budding to produce clones). In sexual reproduction, fertilization may occur internally (brooding) or externally (broadcasting). These different approaches affect the distance that fertilized coral embryos (planulae) can travel.
Habitat
This species can be found on marginal reef habitats, sub-tidal reefs and rocky reefs. Due to a requirement for light for photosynthesis by zooxanthellae this species will not normally be found deeper than 20m.
Distribution
This species has a fairly restricted range. It inhabits the Southwest Indian Ocean to the east of Madagascar and is found around the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Aden.
Population Estimate
This species population size is unknown but it is considered uncommon.
Population Trend
This species population is considered to be declining in size. To date some 19% of global coral reefs have been lost whilst high proportions remain under threat. Around the Persian Gulf for example, some 85% of reefs are threatened whilst regionally around 75% of reefs are subject to at least one major threat.
Status
Endangered (EN) 2012.2 IUCN Red List
Threats
Localized events and activities pose considerable threats to this species as a result of its small range. For example a large storm, Cyclone Gonu, hit the region in 2007 and resulted in a 30-90% reduction in coral cover. There are fears that events such as these may become more frequent and more severe as a result of global warming.

Another localized threat to this species is that of pollution. The Gulf of Oman experiences high levels of oil and industrial pollution as well as sediment run off that can result in eutrophication, a process through which increased nutrients in the water trigger algal and phytoplankton blooms. This in turn reduces light penetration and oxygen levels in the water and can cause coral to starve.

The region within which P. sheppardi resides is also subject to high levels of overfishing, heavy shipping traffic and coastal development.

There are numerous other threats facing coral reefs globally and many of these may also impact Parasimplastrea sheppardi. These can be viewed here.

 
Conservation Underway
There are no species specific conservation measures although some protection is offered to all corals through their inclusion in CITES Appendix II which manages the export of threatened species.

Additionally parts of the species range do overlap within marine protected areas (MPAs).

Moreover, a Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network (GCRMN) was set up in 2004 in the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman region to motivate coral reef conservation and management. This network is building participation and collaboration between governments, scientific organizations and institutions that are able to provide financial support for coral reef conservation. There is also a similar GCRMN initiative covering the islands of Mauritius and Réunion.
Projects

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

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.

The development of new marine reserves as well as the enhancement and improved management of existing areas would also benefit this species.

Additionally, more must be done to curb global emissions of greenhouse gases in order to prevent further climate change and ocean acidification.
Associated EDGE Community members

NGO dedicated to working with local communities to conserve threatened marine environments.

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

Links
References
Arrigoni, R. et al., 2012. Molecular phylogeny of the Robust clade (Faviidae, Mussidae, Merulinidae, and Pectiniidae): An Indian Ocean perspective. Molecular phylogenetics and evolution. 65: 183-193.

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

DeVantier, L., Hodgson, G., Huang, D., Johan, O., Licuanan, A., Obura, D., Sheppard, C., Syahrir, M. & Turak, E. 2008. Parasimplastrea sheppardi. 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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