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elkhorn coral
Elkhorn Coral
(Acropora palmata)
staghorn coral
Staghorn Coral
(Acropora cervicornis)
coral video
Video: Protecting Coral Reefs
Corals are invertebrates that have been on Earth for about 500 million years and are taxonomically related to anemones, jellyfish, and hydras. They are made of invertebrate polyps and can generally be categorized as either hard or soft. Hard corals have calcium carbonate skeletons, grow in colonies, and are reef-building animals that live in symbiosis with phytoplankton called zooxanthellae. Soft corals are flexible, have calcareous particles in their body walls for structural support, can be found in both tropical and cold ocean waters, do not grow in colonies or build reefs, and do not always contain zooxanthellae.

Corals listed under the Endangered Species Act

There are 22 coral species listed as "threatened" and 3 coral species listed as "endangered" under the Endangered Species Act, grouped below by status:

Threatened coral species:

Endangered coral species:

Threats to Corals

International Protections for Corals

These corals are also listed in CITES Appendix II.

Regulatory Overview

In 2006, elkhorn and staghorn corals were listed as threatened under the ESA.

In 2009, we received a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity [pdf] to list 83 species of corals under the ESA and designate critical habitat for these species. In April 2012, we completed a status review report and draft Management Report of the 82 candidate species of corals (all petitioned species except for the Large Ivory Coral, Oculina varicosa). In November 2012, we proposed to list 66 of those candidate species of corals as threatened or endangered under the ESA and also proposed to reclassify elkhorn and staghorn corals (already listed species) from threatened to endangered status. On September 10, 2014, we published a final rule listing 20 of the petitioned coral species as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Elkhorn and staghorn corals retained their listing status as threatened species. You can find more information about this final listing decision on our website.

In 2013, we received a petition from WildEarth Guardians [pdf] to list 81 marine species, including 23 species of corals. We found that the petitioned action may be warranted for 3 of the petitioned coral species (Cantharellus noumeae, Siderastrea glynni, and Tubastraea floreana) and completed comprehensive status reviews for these species. In December 2014, we proposed to list these three coral species as endangered and solicited public comment. On October 7, 2015, we published a final rule listing these three foreign coral species as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. 

More Information

Updated: October 15, 2015