Kajalein Atoll is a veritable paradise of SPS corals, and if you couldn’t tell already, there’s plenty of Acropora to go around. But we’re not leaving out the unique Montis of the Central Pacific region, it’s just taken us a while to get to them.
First up for the most notable Montipora we sighted in the Marshall Islands is an unknown species we are provisionally calling Montipora sp. “likatu”, but only because we pored over all the referrences and couldn’t find a suitable species match, and ‘Likatu’ being Marshallese for ‘pretty girl’. This particular Montipora species was one of the most visible species in the genus we sighted at Kwajalein Atoll, and it comes in no fewer than three color strains that we are aware of, so far.
Montipora “likatu” grows into an encrusting and submassive colony shape, with a distinct covering of papillae that coalesce into little mounds in the older parts of the colony. The most frequently sighted color morph of Montipora ‘likatu’ is the orange-brown strain with bright pink polyps and a white growing edge. Very rarely did these colonies create plates, except in very sheltered areas of the reef but you can always tell it apart by the unique pattern of small papillae and the fuzzy appearance it gives the surface of the coral.
We only spent a little bit of time with the green polyp form of Montipora sp. ‘Likatu’ but the real home run in this variable Montipora species is the purple polyp form which also develops a neon orange growing edge. We couldn’t believe the brilliance of the purple-polyp, orange growth margin Montipora sp. ‘likatu’ and how bright this coral looks in full sunlight – we just can’t wait to get a cultured piece of each of these colors of this particular Montipora, grow them together in an aquarium and enjoy how their appearance adapts and changes under aquarium conditions and lighting.