New hard coral species reported in Honduras

hard coral species Honduras

Healthy reefs were observed around Cayos Cochinos islands

 

New data collected on coral reefs in Honduras has reported one new species and several new forms of hard corals. The coral reefs of Utila, Cayos Cochinos and Rio Esteban were visually inspected in summer 2010 to collect data on hard coral species abundance and richness (Scleractinia, Milleporidae and Stylasteridae) from the different Marine Research Sites operated by Operation Wallacea on the north coast of Honduras.

One species and four forms of zooxanthellate scleractinian corals were new records from Honduras.

The Caribbean coastline of Honduras, Central America, represents the southern end of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System although its hard coral fauna is much less studied than nearby Belize and Mexico. During the summer of 2010 coral reefs around Utila, the mainland adjacent to Rio Esteban and the Cayos Cochinos islands were visually inspected by Dr Patrick Scaps from the University of Sciences and Technologies of Lille.

Healthy reefs

One species and four forms of zooxanthellate scleractinian corals were new records from Honduras

Hard coral species richness and abundance appeared quite similar at Utila and Cayos Cochinos but were lower at Rio Esteban. At Utila 46 species and 12 forms of zooxanthellate scleractinian corals belonging to 21 genera were observed, compared to 44 species and 12 forms belonging to 20 genera at Cayos Cochinos, and only 32 species and six forms belonging to 15 genera at Rio Esteban.

At each site three species of milleporids and one species of Stylaster (S. roseus) were also observed. An average of 37.1 species of zooxanthellate scleractinian corals was found per site at Utila, 33.4 at Cayos Cochinos and only 22.2 at Rio Esteban.

Most of the reefs at Utila and Cayos Cochinos were dominated by Montastrea annularis, M. faveolata, M. franksi, Porites astreoides, P. porites, P. furcata, Siderea siderea and Agaricia agaricites. Poorly developed coral communities were observed from Rio Esteban and the algae Dictyota spp. constitute the visually most common sessile macro benthos. This can be related to the high level of sedimentation on that reef. Hard coral species observed at Rio Esteban are mainly species tolerating high sedimentation rates (Siderastrea radians, Porites astreoides, P. furcata, Agaricia agaricites, Manicia areolata, Diploria clivosa).

New species for Honduras

new form of coral for Honduras

Manicia areolata forma mayori, a new form of zooxanthellate scleractinian coral for Honduras

One species of zooxanthellate scleractinian coral (Oculina varicosa) observed only at Rio Esteban and four forms observed at Utila and Cayos Cochinos (Agaricia agaricites forma carinata, Agaricia fragilis forma contracta, Manicia areolata forma mayori and Meandrina meandrites forma danai) have not been reported for Honduras in the published literature.

Very rich coral communities

Up to now the list of hard corals known from Honduras shallow waters comprises 54 species and 13 forms of zooxanthellate scleractinian corals, three species of Millepora and one species of Stylaster (S. roseus). The number of zooxanthellate scleractinian species found at Honduras is slightly higher than those reported from other western Caribbean reefs at Belize (51 species and eight forms) and Cozumel Mexico (49 species and eight forms). The 54 species of zooxanthellate scleractinian corals known from Honduras represent 95% of the approximately 57 zooxanthellate species known from the Caribbean.

The high hard coral diversity of Utila and Cayos Cochinos suggests that the reefs of the area are of high conservation importance.

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2 Responses to “New hard coral species reported in Honduras”

  1. That is awesome! I can’t wait to dive there with Opwall. Biodiversity is a beautiful thing. 🙂

  2. Hi Patrick and James, congratulations for your study! We would like to publish the abstract in dosmares.org web site, including links of how to obtain the original paper. If you are interested please visit our web site and go to “abstracts” to see how this work, then you can send the information by email. This service is free. Best regards.

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