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Staghorn coral

Staghorn coral

On Exhibit: Splash Zone & Penguins

Animal Facts

  • Scientific Name

    Acropora sp

  • Animal Type


  • Diet

    nutrients provided by algae growing in their tissues; small, drifting animals

  • Size

    colonies can grow 7 or more feet (2.1 m) high

  • Relatives

    staghorn corals, other corals, sea anemones, jellies; Phylum: Cnidaria; Order: Madreporaria; Family: Acroporidae

  • Habitat

    Coral Reefs

  • Range

    coral reefs around the world

Natural History

No one knows for sure how many kinds of staghorn corals there are, but scientists estimate there may be nearly 400 species. And only scientists can tell them apart; these corals grow in a confusing variety of shapes and colors. 

A single small reef may have hundreds of Acropora colonies growing on it. But in all their variety—from flat platelike colonies to pillowlike clumps to the branching, antlerlike form from which they get their common name—these fast-growing corals are consummate reef builders and important members of coral reef communities around the world.


Coral reefs around the world are in danger. Silt (fine soil) smothers coral when it washes off the land from farm fields, roads and building sites. More towns and resorts near shore mean more sewage, oil and chemicals in the water. Global warming and changes in weather patterns create conditions that corals can't survive. Even recreational diving on reefs takes a toll: boat anchors break off coral heads, and corals die where divers kick or grab them.

Cool Facts

Acropora corals grow fast in order to shade out other corals and gain more space on the reef. But fast is relative in the coral world; a colony of staghorn coral may only grow four inches (10 cm) per year.

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