2012 Volume 14 Issue 1 Pages 73-95
Ninety-three coral species have been identified at Okinotorishima (Okinotori Island), an isolated table reef located in the center of the Philippine Sea. The species composition of the island is similar to that of other islands in the northwestern Pacific, but the number of species is small in comparison with surrounding islands. The coral fauna at the island is characterized by a unique species composition that is independent of the Ryukyu Islands, mainland Japan, Palau, and the Mariana Islands. No endemic species were found, but the dominant Acropora species (A. aculeus, A. sp. aff. divaricata, and A. globiceps) were morphologically different from corresponding species at the Ryukyu Islands. The relatively low species diversity at the island despite the close proximity to an area of high diversity is explained by its small habitat diversity and isolation from other islands. The island is located in a subtropical gyre and is isolated from major currents. Thus, only coral larvae with a long competency period (as long as 70 days) can settle at the island from surrounding islands. This unique species composition seems to have been maintained for at least the last 7600 years, since the last stage of sea level rise in the post-glacial period (Holocene).