Cantharellus coral
(Cantharellus noumeae)
EN
Overview
This small often solitary reef building coral was only discovered in 1984 and occurs at depths of around 10-20m. It was the first detailed member of a new genus within the family Fungiidae. The specimen is brown in colour and has an almost mushroom like appearance, consisting of a stalk supporting a cup shaped main body. Unlike most other genera within the family, which are free living for some or all of their life, species of the Cantharellus genus are permanently attached to substrate. This species is currently considered endemic to New Caledonia however there are unconfirmed sightings in Papua New Guinea and a distinct variety identified in Western Australia and the Red Sea.

With a preference for colonising deep waters surrounding areas of sediment, this species is most at risk from activities that increase sedimentation in coastal habitats.
Urgent Conservation Actions
No current conservation attention.
Distribution
Endemic to New Caledonia with unconfirmed sightings across areas of Oceania.

 
Evolutionary Distinctiveness
Order: Scleractinia
Family: Fungiidae
The family Fungiidae is numerous and distinct from all other coral families. Cantharellus is one of 13 genera within the family and is distinguishable through remaining attached to substrate throughout its life. There are three species within the Cantharellus genus and Cantharellus noumea has above average evolutionary distinctiveness.

 
Description
Size: 
Single polyps are under 7cm, if colonial there may be a handful of polyps.
Solitary specimens appear mushroom like with enlarged cup-shaped heads connected to substrate through a stony stalk. When colonial, the main body of corallites may become contorted where individuals meet but solitary specimens are typically round. Corallites are heavily textured with ridges extending from a central mouth in the middle of the polyp, out to the structures edge. The species has a mottled brown colour.
Ecology
An overview of hard coral ecology can be viewed here.

As a zooxanthellate species this coral obtains a subset of its energy requirements from a symbiotic relationship with algae called zooxanthellae. Zooxanthellae live in the tissue of their host corals and require sunlight for photosynthesis, a process that supplies energy for the algae and its host coral.

Cantharellus noumeae polyps may be found growing solitarily or in small colonies. It is a stony coral species meaning that as the individual animals (polyps) of this species grow, they exude calcium carbonate to form exoskeletons (corallites) for protection. Over time, the accumulation of calcium carbonate skeletons results in the formation of reefs. Specific oceanic conditions are required for polyps to synthesize and exude calcium carbonate.

The reproductive pattern of this particular species is unknown. Within the Fungiidae family, the majority of analysed species are either male or female and mating tends to be via synchronized mass spawning events in which huge numbers of eggs and sperm are released into the open ocean. These gametes become fertilized and develop into planulae which in turn navigate the ocean in the search of a suitable site to colonize.
Habitat
Found in deeper waters close to sediment in sheltered bays or in shallower reef environments.
Distribution
Considered endemic to New Caledonia in the West Pacific, the species may also persist in Papua New Guinea although further confirmation is required.
Population Estimate
No species specific population estimate is available however the species is considered rare.
Population Trend
Despite this species range lying within one of the least threatened regions globally, still around 50% of reefs in the Pacific are threatened. In New Caledonia coral cover has varied considerably from 20 to 40% cover between 1997 and 2007. Additionally, freak weather events such as Cyclone Erica destroyed between 10-80% of live coral in this country. From these data it is inferred that the population of this species is declining.
Status
Endangered (EN) 2012.2 IUCN Red List
Threats
The imminent threat to this species is that of smothering from increased sedimentation. Watershed-based pollution affects many reefs within this species’ range. In New Caledonia such pollution is largely a result of open-cut mining for nickel. Sedimentation can affect corals in various ways from completely burying colonies, to increasing water turbidity and blocking sunlight, to increasing nutrient levels and encouraging algal growth.

Climate change is an increasingly major threat to coral reefs and thermal stress is likely to affect the vast majority of reefs by triggering bleaching. A link between climate change and extreme weather events is also likely and may result in an increase of regional cyclones which could be catastrophic.

A range of additional threats are known to differentially threaten all corals and many will undoubtedly also impact this species. These additional stressors can be viewed here.

 
Conservation Underway
All coral species are listed on CITES Appendix II which regulates the export of threatened species.

Within the Pacific Ocean there are 920 MPAs covering 13% of coral reefs. Additionally 60% of the reefs in New Caledonia are commissioned as World Heritage Sites and this offers some protection through regulation and management of land use.
Conservation Proposed
With no suggested conservation measures, the species would benefit from further research into all aspects of its ecology and conservation, therefore allowing for scientifically informed conservation proposals.

Specific localized habitat protection, surveillance and monitoring of reefs will also benefit the area, as would effective management of tourism. Raising public awareness of the importance of coral reefs in the region could also help reduce activities that contribute to reef decline.

Continuing designation and effective management of Marine Protected Areas will also benefit coral species.

Moreover, more timely access to national trade data for this species would benefit monitoring of the species trade.

Finally, more must also be done to curb global emissions of greenhouse gases in order to prevent climate change and ocean acidification.
Links
References
Burke, L et al. 2011. Reefs at Risk Revisited. World Resources Institute. Washington DC.

Dubinsky, Z. and Stamble, N. 2011. Coral Reefs: An Ecosystem in Transition. Springer. London, UK.

Gastineau, G. and Soden, B. J. 2009. Model projected changes of extreme wind events in response to global warming. Geophysical Research Letters. 36.

Hoeksema, B. W. 1993. Mushroom corals (Scleractinia: Fungiidae) of Madang Lagoon, northern Papua New Guinea: an annotated check-list with the description of Cantharellus jebbi spec. nov. Zoologische Mededelingen. 67: 1-19

Hoeksema, B. W. and Best, M. B. 1984. Cantharellus noumeae (Gen. Nov., Spec. Nov.) a New Scleractinian Coral (Fungiidae) From New Claedonia. Zoologische Mededelingen 58: 323-328.

Hoeksema, B., Wood, E., Rogers, A. & Quibilan, M. 2008. Cantharellus noumeae. In: IUCN 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 07 December 2012.

UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Lagoons of New Caledonia: Reef Diversity and Associated Ecosystems. Accessed on 07 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.

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