There are staghorn acros and then there are STAGHORN corals! It is astounding to see the massive size that some species can reach in their preferred habitat amnd stumble upon the kinds of gargantuan ship-grounding sizes the colonies and their branches can reach.
We know how fast “aquarium” staghorns can grow and while it is beautiful to see fields of medium-branched stahorns like Acropora formosa, but these super colonies only grow a few feet tall, despite often covering huge expanses of reef real estate. The Giant Staghorn corals are different though, growing from a single base and into huge mega-colonies which don’t spread out the same as the weedy staghorns. The impressively large staghorn corals we sighted at Kwajalein Atoll are probably one of several species including Acropora abrotanoides and Acropora robusta as no other super thick branched species of Acros are known to grow like this in the Marshall Islands.
In clear shallow water with plenty of water flow and wave action, the giant staghorn corals can grow to ten feet high, with basal branched approaching five inches in diameter. At this scale these tree-sized corals have got to be approaching thirty to fifty years old a piece, if not older. We are awash with awe and respect for these ancients of the reefs who survived and grew in the Marshall Islands through several wars, innumerable storms and all of the challenges that human pressures have thrown at them.