SMSG Blog

Expedition blogs and news from the Shallow Marine Surveys Group

Survival against the odds by a small, isolated population of Ascension corals

The brooding reef coral Favia gravida (Verrill 1868) is found on the mid-Atlantic volcanic islands of Ascension and St. Helena, about 1,300 km apart.


First recorded in 1881 in small tidal rock pools, Professor Wirtz revisited the original site at Shelly Beach, Ascension Island, during the recent SMSG expedition.




[caption id="attachment_742" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Peter Wirtz collecting samples from the Shelly Beach rockpools. Peter Wirtz collecting samples from the Shelly Beach rock pools.

Although a large number of dead corals were found in the pools, the small population has somehow persisted to the present day. In a new publication, authors Bert Hoeksema and Peter Wirtz suggest that the remarkable survival of Ascension’s small population for at least 130 years has been made possible through inbreeding and fragmentation, suiting it for life on the bottom of these unique shallow rock pools. The full article can be found and downloaded here.




[caption id="attachment_741" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Live corals photographed in situ Live corals photographed in situ

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An expedition highlight

The team returns to Shelly Beach


We mentioned in one of our early posts that two of our team members had been fortunate enough to be shown a very special site here on Ascension, the small rock pools at Shelly Beach where two very rare and vulnerable species of shrimp are found.


Yesterday a large number of the team enjoyed a return visit to the pools, escorted by Stedson Stroud and Jolene Sim of Ascension Conservation. This time we were loaded with all the equipment we would need for a survey of the site, including underwater cameras, devices to measure salinity and temperature, GPS units to map the site and, most excitingly, special permission by the Ascension Island Government to collect a small number of samples for further study.


Enjoy this short gallery of images taken at this exceptional location.


[gallery orderby="title"]
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Dave John Hunting seaweeds around Ascension
31 August 2013
Great to see underwater photos of this very unusual submarine environment where the ubiquitous black...
Helen Marsh Team Member Stedson Stroud
03 July 2013
Great to hear more about Stedsons work, and how he got started, having met him on Ascension Island l...
Simon Plummer Volunteer Ecological Surveyors
10 June 2013
I can’t stop smiling thinking of what a brilliant time you are having. The fact that I can visualise...
Simon Plummer Black triggerfish anecdotes
10 June 2013
An enjoyable and funny read, thank you steve for making me chuckle.
Simon Plummer Ascension Island fish record
10 June 2013
The photos are brilliant, envious.

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