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Elkhorn Coral  - Acropora palmata
Photo by Paige Gill

Elkhorn coral colonies (of millions of tiny coral polyps) form flattened branches that resemble the horns of a moose or elk. The surface of the branches is covered in small, protruding tubular corallites. Colors range from brown to yellow-brown. The elkhorn coral colony grows to 3-12 feet with the branch diameter of 2-10 inches. It can grow at depths of 1-55 feet. Elkhorn corals commonly grow in the shallow areas of the reef crest, where their branching arms break up the wave action as it comes onto the reef.

Elkhorn Coral
(Acropora palmata)

Florida, Bahamas, and the Caribbean

Shallow reefs in areas of wave action or water movement

Nutrients provided by symbiotic algae, planktonic animals


The status of this species is representative of the populations within the waters of this Sanctuary only, not global populations.

Quick Fact
Elkhorn coral branches grow parallel to the direction of water movement.

Learn More
- National Marine Fisheries Service
- National Wildlife Federation