“The large Porites coral on Goolboodi (Orpheus) Island is unusually rare and hardy,” wrote James Cook University marine ecologist Adam Smith and colleagues in their article published in the journal Scientific Reports. “It has survived coral bleaching, invasive species, cyclones, very low tides and human activities for almost 500 years.”
It is found under the crystal clear waters off the coast of the Palm Islands of Australia and predates the European settlement of its neighboring continent (the colonization of Australia began in 1788). It is mainly inhabited by the colony of living coral polyps that built it for many generations.
The coral is part of the Porites genus and surprised researchers not only because of its good health (70% are ‘alive’), but it has survived various events, including 80 cyclones or coral bleaching.
Muga dhambi is also the sixth tallest coral measured in the Great Barrier Reef, at 5.3 meters high. Based on the height of the colony, experts estimate it to be between 421 and 438 years old, making it probably one of the oldest structures on the reef.
Corals are anthozoans, a type of organism related to hydroids, jellyfish, and sea anemones that help form the coral reef, such as the Great Barrier Reef. Although corals are sensitive to climate change, a study published in April found that 99% could disappear by 2025.
Given the bleak future corals face, thanks to ocean acidification and anthropogenic global warming, the researchers believe we can learn a lot from tracking this hardy colony.
Referencia: Smith, A., Cook, N., Cook, K. et al. Field measurements of a massive Porites coral at Goolboodi (Orpheus Island), Great Barrier Reef. Sci Rep 11, 15334 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-94818-w