Skip Navigation

Species Search:
FieldGuidesthreatened and/or endangered search resultsthreatened and/or endangered


Elkhorn Coral Acropora palmata


enlarge +

Elkhorn Coral
credit: NOAA

All Images


Get Our Newsletters


Advanced Search

Category: Jellies, Anemones and kin view all from this category

Description Elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata) is considered to be one of the most important reef-building corals in the Caribbean. This species of coral is structurally complex with many large branches. The coral structure closely resembles that of elk antlers. These branches create habitats for many other reef species such as lobsters, parrot-fish, snappers, and other reef fish.

Elkhorn coral colonies are incredibly fast growing with an average growth rate of 5 to 10 centimetres (2.0 to 3.9 in) per year and can eventually grow up to 3.7 metres (12 ft) in diameter. The color of this coral species ranges from brown to a yellowish-brown. This color is a result of the symbiotic zooxanthellae that live inside the tissue of this coral species. Zooxanthellae is a type of algae which photosynthesizes to provide the coral with nutrients. The zooxanthellae are also capable of removing waste products from the coral. Historically, the majority of elkhorn coral reproduction has occurred asexually; this occurs when a branch of the coral breaks off and attaches to the substrate forming a new colony, known as fragmentation. The degree to which local stands reproduce by fragmentation varies across the Caribbean but on average 50% of colonies are the result of fragmentation rather than sexual reproduction. Sexual reproduction occurs once a year in August or September when coral colonies release millions of gametes by broadcast spawning.

Warning Cuts and scratches resulting from contact with this coral can be slow to heal.

Habitat Coral reefs.

Range Florida.