For some endangered coral species like staghorn and elkhorn coral, restoring populations with colonies grown in nurseries may be the best hope for their recovery. Several threats may still limit recovery of these species, however. On many reefs in The Bahamas, elkhorn and staghorn coral populations may not recover due to a species of snail, Coralliophila abbreviata, that aggressively consume these corals. While these snails consume many species of corals, they prefer to eat elkhorn and staghorn corals. These snails also transmit diseases from one coral colony to the next, further wiping out corals.
While we know little about these coral eating snails, we are trying to determine the extent of their impact to corals reefs, including elkhorn, staghorn and other coral species. Furthermore, we are trying to understand what predators may be able to control populations of C. abbreviata. This may lead to more effective reef rehabilitation efforts. implementing corallivore control efforts in conjunction with coral outplanting may be our most effective means of restoring some of these endangered coral species in key locations where they can help populations throughout The Bahamas.
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