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Indo-Pacific Coral Found Growing on Venezuelan Reef

Scientists believe the xenia coral was introduced intentionally for farming purposes.

January 13, 2014

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In what may be the first instance of its kind in the Caribbean, scientists have announced that a single colony of an Indo-Pacific soft coral found in the Valle Seco coral region of Venezuela in 2007 has spread several kilometers from its first spotted location. The coral, of the family Xeniidae has since been found in Conoma Bay and Mono Island and occupies around 20 percent of the substratum, according to a report in the Journal of the International Society for Reef Studies. The researchers say that the soft coral is found in soft and hard substrata as well as on introduced debris in well lit areas of the reef. They say that the biodiversity of the areas in which the corals have established themselves has dropped considerably due largely to the loss of living stony coral coverage.

Invasive xenia in Venezuela
Venezuelan reefs overgrown by invasive xeniid soft coral: aC. natans (left) D. strigosa (right). bM. alcicornis. Photo by J. P. Ruiz Allais, et. al.

The coral has wreaked havoc on the native corals in the region, specifically the scleractinian corals Colpophyllia natans, Diploria strigosa, Orbicella annularis, and Montastraea cavernosa. It has also adversely affected Millepora alcicornis. The scientists believe that the Xenia soft coral was illegally introduced into the rocky substrate of Venezuelan waters for propagation and farming purposes. 

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