Agaricia tenuifolia

Agaricia tenuifolia forms, together with 232 other species, the family Agariciidae, belonging to the known as stony corals. This species is distributed in the Caribbean and throughout the Gulf of Mexico where it is very abundant in a range of depths between 1 and 15 meters.

Agaricia tenuifolia adopts a more or less spherical shape formed by several thin vertical plates between 2 and 3 mm in diameter, with an encrusting base. We find polyps on both sides of the plates, the various polyps being separated from each other by irregular ridges.

The color of this species is variable, being able to find specimens of brown, green or reddish color, and being the margins of the plates paler than the rest of the plate itself, with orange polyps. In appearance it can be very similar to Agaricia agaricites although in this case the septa are much thicker.

Inside the tissue of Agaricia tenuifolia, as with all corals, we find symbiotic algae called zooxanthellae. This is a symbiotic relationship, in which the coral obtains the oxygen and energy that the algae generates from photosynthesis; and the algae obtains shelter inside the coral tissue, as well as privileged access to light exposure. It has been determined that between 70% and 95% of the coral's energy requirements are covered by the energy provided by the zooxanthellae in the form of sugars. The remaining 5-30% of the coral's food is obtained by the capture of small organic particles and zooplankton by its polyps. It is during the night, when the polyps of this species are fully deployed to capture these particles and invertebrates.

The reproduction of Agaricia tenuifolia can be either sexual or asexual. Sexual reproduction is accomplished by the release of gametes into the water column where fertilization will occur and larvae are formed. The larvae will be disseminated by the currents and subsequently attach to the seafloor to generate a new individual. Asexual reproduction is by gemmation, giving rise to a clone of the original specimen.


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