First table coral discovered off O'ahu in Hawaii


NOAA scientists have reported the discovery of the first known colony of table coral off of the south shore of O‘ahu in Hawaii.

Given its common name due to its flat-topped, table-like shape, table coral (Acropora cytherea) is one of the primary reef-building corals throughout most of the tropical Pacific, but it has never been observed in waters off O'ahu until now. The coral, estimated to be 14 years old, was found at a depth of 60' during a training dive.
 
"This discovery represents a significant contribution to the diversity of O'ahu reefs," said Daniel Wagner, Ph.D., NOAA research specialist with Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. "Hawaii may be in the process of being colonised by table coral from Johnston Atoll or other neighbouring tropical archipelagos."
 
Table coral is abundant at Johnston Atoll, 800 miles southeast of Honolulu. However, it is rare in Hawaii, where its distribution is limited to French Frigate Shoals and neighbouring atolls in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.
 
The coral colony was discovered by scientists during survey dives using closed-circuit rebreathers off the south shore of Oʻahu. Rebreathers recycle the gases that divers breathe, removing carbon dioxide and actively managing oxygen levels, thereby allowing for extended dive times and more efficient decompression at depths not accessible using conventional SCUBA.

A report on the discovery was published last month in the Bulletin of Marine Science.

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