Giant Star Coral
(Moseleya latistellata)
Boasting an impressive and unique appearance, Moseleya. latistellata colonies tend to consist of few but large corallites which appear similar to warped or melting discs. Colonies range from green to brown in colour and on closer inspection are adorned with vein like wisps of electric blue. The species growth is submassive meaning that it is has a globular shape but features additional wedge-like outgrowths where corallites meet.

This species lives in small colonies and is occasionally free living. Its preferred habitat is that of turbid waters and muddy substrate and the species is capable of withstanding exposure to the air at times of low tide. The giant star coral is particularly popular within the aquarium trade and this may represent a significant threat to the species wellbeing.
Urgent Conservation Actions
No specific conservation is underway for this species.
The species has a relatively small range, limited to South-East Asia and Northern Australasia

Evolutionary Distinctiveness
Order: Scleractinia
Family: Faviidae
Moseleya latistellata is a monospecific species (the only species in its genus) and belongs to the Faviidae family which has a very long evolutionary history dating back to the Jurassic period. This particular species is highly distinct in evolutionary terms, the second most unique species on our coral EDGE list.

large corallites (up to 35mm). Colonies are often small (less than 50 polyps)
This colonial coral species has a submassive structure meaning it grows in a roughly spherical fashion. Corallites, the individual skeletons surrounding coral polyps, are large and have an unpronounced and flattened appearance. Neighboring corallites are fused together within colonies.

Colonies may be attached to substrate or even free living and tend to have a green to brown base colour, inter-dispersed with filaments of electric blue. Within each corallite is an additional daughter corallite through which tentacles may emerge on darker nights.
An overview of hard coral ecology can be viewed here.

As with most hard corals, this species is a zooxanthellate organism meaning that it houses a small photosynthetic algae (zooxanthellae) through which it obtains energy. Additional nourishment is provided through the catching of prey with its fleshy tentacles.

Moseleya latistellata is a hermaphrodite species and so a single polyp exhibits both male and female sex organs, both of which release gametes for reproduction. This release of gametes is synchronized throughout the species, apparently responding to the external environmental cue of a full moon occurrence between late October and early November. As a result of these external stimuli, the species spends 6 days vigorously ejecting sperm and yellow eggs, creating a murky syrup of gametes. These interact, fertilise and develop into ‘planulae’, a juvenile form of coral ready to settle on substrate and further develop into coral polyps and eventually colonies.
Colonies can be found free-growing or attached to sandy/muddy substrate. Preferred habitat includes shallow, turbid waters within which other coral species can’t compete. Additionally, the species has the resilience to become exposed at low tides or on the slopes of reefs and lagoons.
Moseleya latistellata is found in the central Indo-Pacific as well as the South China Sea.
Population Estimate
No population estimate has been made for this species. It is considered uncommon.
Population Trend
Whilst a species specific population trend is unknown, coral reefs in general are declining and already 20% by area have been lost. The Indo-Pacific regions to which this species is endemic, is subject to continued threat and in Southeast Asia 95% of reefs are threatened. From this it is inferred that the population of Moseleya latistellata is declining.
Vulnerable (VU) 2012.2 IUCN Red List.
The species is popular within the aquarium trade and this represents a significant threat to the wellbeing of the taxa. Between 2004-9 some 3556 specimens were legally exported and it is likely many more exportations went undocumented. There is no data to determine whether this volume of trade is sustainable or whether extractions from the wild are depleting wild populations.

There are many additional threats which affect all coral species to some extent. These threats may act on a localized or global scale and, if they occur concurrently can have a synergistic effect. The term synergistic describes how two or more threats working together will have a greater impact than could be predicted by adding their individual impacts. These additional threats can be viewed here.

Conservation Underway
Moseleya latistellata is protected by CITES Appendix II which regulates the international trade of threatened species.

Although there are no species-specific conservation measures in place for Moseleya latistellata, it is offered protection within a number of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) within its distribution and there are some regionally based conservation measures that may benefit this species. Conservation in the Indo-Pacific for example, is led by initiatives such as the Micronesia Challenge and the Coral Triangle Initiative. The Micronesia Challenge is a commitment by governments in Micronesia to protect 30% of near-shore marine resources across Micronesia by 2020. The Nature Conservancy is assisting this programme by contributing funds and helping with the establishment of MPAs, training and the development of sound governmental policies.

The Coral Triangle Initiative involves the governments of nations within the Coral Triangle, a coral biodiversity hotspot, in an effort to understand the value of the region’s marine and coastal biological resources and to develop a plan of action to sustainably conserve these resources.
Conservation Proposed
No species specific conservation is proposed. Research into all areas of coral ecology and life history are required in order to propose effective conservation measures.

An increase in designated MPAs and more effective management of existing reserves would also benefit corals, as would; an increased public awareness of ecosystem services, better enforcement of legislation, training of reef scientists/managers, increased international cooperation, better monitoring and financial support for conservation initiatives.

Finally, more timely access to national trade data for this species would benefit monitoring of the species trade.
DeVantier, L., Hodgson, G., Huang, D., Johan, O., Licuanan, A., Obura, D., Sheppard, C., Syahrir, M. & Turak, E. 2008. Moseleya latistellata. In: IUCN 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.2. <>. Downloaded on 03 December 2012.

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

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

Fukami, H., Chen, C.A., Budd, A.F., Collins, A. Wallace, C. Et al. 2008. Mitochondrial and Nuclear Genes Suggest that Stony Corals are Monophyletic but Most Families of Stony Corals Are Not (Order Scleractinia, Class Anthozoa, Phylum Cnidaria). PLoS ONE 3(9):e3222. Doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0003222.

Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (2009). Scientific Synthesis of the Impacts of Ocean Acidification on Marine Biodiversity. Montreal, Technical Series No. 46, 61 pages. 

Veron, J.E.N. et al. 2009. The coral reef crises: The critical importance of <350 ppm CO2. Mar Pollut Bul 58:1428-1436.

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

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