Acropora or commonly called table corals is a genus of coral in the phylum Cnidaria. Depending on the species and location, Acropora may grow as plates or slender or broad branches. Like other corals, Acropora corals are actually colonies of individuals, known as polyps, which are about 2 mm across and share tissue and a nerve net. The polyps can withdraw back into the coral in response to movement or disturbance by possible predators, but when undisturbed they protrude slightly. The polyps usually extend further at night as they capture zooplankton from the water.
Acropora genus corals are most common in shallow reef environments with bright light and moderate to high water motion. Many small reef fishes live near acropora colonies and retreat into the thicket of branches if threatened.
These corals have zooxanthellae, symbiotic algae that live in the corals’ cells and produce energy for the animals through photosynthesis. Environmental destruction has led to a dwindling of populations of Acropora, along with other coral species. Acropora corals are especially susceptible to bleaching when stressed. Bleaching is due to the loss of the coral’s zooxanthellae, which are a golden-brown color. Bleached corals are stark white and may die if new zooxanthellae cannot be assimilated. Common causes of bleaching and coral death include pollution, abnormally warm water temperatures, increased ocean acidification, sedimentation, and eutrophication.
It’s not only the big fishes that you count on a dive, seeing some healthy coral growth brings the complete satisfaction on a dive.
In Maldives there are vast unexplored reefs which display beautiful coral gardens. These reef tops are rich in table coral growth. For example there are few reefs or dive sites on south and north Ari atoll that proves this.
Kalhahandhi kandu also know as Panettone is one of the best places to discover healthy table corals on the top reef between safety stop depths. Ideal location for snorkelers and scuba divers.
Rangali Madivaru at southern west of Ari atoll, the inner part of the reef has a fantastic stretch of table corals. The best time to dive here is the south west monsoon when the current flows from west to east.
Kandholhudhoo House Reef has a spectacular house reef that displays different species of hard corals mainly dominated by Acropora. This is fantastic reef for beginners, snorkelers and advanced divers to increase their knowledge in different species of hard corals.