Acropora spathulata is the quintessential Australian SPS Coral in our minds, but we’ve now discovered that this coral can also be found as far away as central Indonesia. Contrary to our previous belief that A. spathulata is an Australian endemic, this species was originally described from colonies and holotypes from the Solomon Islands, and was also known to occur in Papua New Guinea.
Older taxonomy considered A. spathulata as a being a known form of Acropora millepora, with which it shares a similar, “chain-mail” pattern of corallites. This robust appearance is even more pronounced in A. spathulata which has thicker branches, and a an overall more stout construction than our beloved Milli Acros.
As far as the aquarium hobby is concerned, Acropora spathulata is only available from Australia, coming in some incredible colors like blue and rainbow to compliment its already appealing shape. With its new natural range distribution in the hear of the coral-exporting country of Indonesia, we may yet see more colonies and more diversity of this species in future reef tanks.
Better yet, Australia’s coral farming industry is in the fetal stages but Indonesia has dozens of coral farming companies with more than a decade of experience of producing maricultured stony corals for the aquarium market. All Acropora spathulata shipped for aquariums around the world are wild-collected colonies which is perhaps why this species still hasn’t really established itself all that well in the hearts of reefer.
If Indonesian coral farms started producing sustainably ocean farmed corals of Spathulata, we could really see a tipping point in people starting to grow one of the most beautiful shallow water stony corals of tropical reefs. But we’re not going to get ahead of ourselves, the first few sighting of Spathulata have so far only been observed in a minty green and a bright white color, both with orange branch tips.
If more colonies of blue and rainbow A. spathulata can be found in Indonesia and these colonies can make it to sustainable production from the country’s many coral farms, we’ll be truly thrilled about this new discovery. Whether in an aquarium or in the sea, Spathulata staghorn is a very photogenic stony coral so be sure to check out the full gallery of images below.