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Branches protect by breaking: Caribbean stony coral

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Branching Coral / HorsePunchKi.. / LicenseCC-by-nc-sa - Attribution Non-commercial Share Alike

Branches of Caribbean stony coral protect the core colony by programmed breakage.

"The Caribbean stony coral Acropora cervicornis forms long, slim branches (a stress increasing shape) supported by brittle skeletal material. We can predict that these corals would break in rapid water flow, yet we find that they thrive on wave-swept forereefs. A. cervicornis do often break, but the broken-off pieces survive and grow. Such 'programmed breakage' and growth appears to be the main mechanism of asexual reproduction and dispersal of A. cervicornis colonies…Furthermore, when bits of an organism or colony break off, the flow forces on the whole structure can be reduced, hence partial breakage can prevent total destruction." (Koehl 1984:67)
About the inspiring organism
Med_5644688923_b4c508b52d_o Acropora cervicornis
Acropora cervicornis (Lamarck, 1816)
Common name: Staghorn coral

Habitat(s): Marine Neritic
Learn more at
Some organism data provided by: URMO: UNESCO-IOC Register of Marine Organisms
Organism/taxonomy data provided by:
Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life: 2008 Annual Checklist

Threat Categories LONG_CR IUCN Red List Status: Critically Endangered

Bioinspired products and application ideas

Application Ideas: For areas prone to hurricanes or tidal waves, build structures or parts of structures with break away features to avoid total destruction of vital core areas.

Industrial Sector(s) interested in this strategy: Construction

Koehl, M. A. R. 1984. How do benthic organisms withstand moving water. Amer. Zoologist. 24: 57-70.
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