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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