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Coral Biodiversity Expedition #3

By: Dr Zoe Richards, Category: Science, Date: 28 Sep 2011

The lagoon at Lizard Island is pretty shallow so over spring's low tides, much of the reef is exposed. At high tide, however, the lagoon provides plenty of scope for easy-access diving.

Mikey heads for the boat

Daniela Ceccarelli © Australian Museum

From our survey of the lagoon I am happy to report that nestled between Palfrey and South Island is a thriving community of Acropora horrida. This species has been hit hard by bleaching and storm events across its distribution range so it is fantastic to see a healthy population of this species. A variety of branching and corymbose Acropora species also populate the lagoon and unlike other locations around the island, appear to have escaped mass predation from Acanthaster planci (crown of thorns).

In addition to the branching Acropora, the lagoon features large stands of Porites cylindrica and branching Millepora spp. The branching matrix provides great structure for fish and species such as the snub-nosed Dart (Trachinotus blochii), spangled emperor (Lethrinus nebulosus), 5-lined snapper (Lutjanus quinquelineatus), which were recorded in abundance.

Other highlights from our surveys to date include recording two rare Euphyllids (Euphyllia divisia and Euphyllia cristata). Other non-scleractinian reef-building corals such as blue coral (Heliopora coercula) and organ pipe coral (Tubipora musica) are also present. In our last few days of diving we intend to survey the exposed side of the island in the hope of recording some pelagic fish and sharks.

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