Last species standing: loss of Pocilloporidae corals associated with coastal urbanization in a tropical city state

  • Rosa Celia Poquita-DuEmail author
  • Zheng Bin Randolph Quek
  • Sudhanshi Sanjeev Jain
  • Sebastian Schmidt-Roach
  • Karenne Tun
  • Eliza C. Heery
  • Loke Ming Chou
  • Peter A. Todd
  • Danwei Huang
Original Paper


Coral reefs worldwide are facing multiple severe stressors leading to ecosystem degradation, but local extinctions of species are not well documented. Here, we track the diversity of Pocilloporidae Gray, 1840 coral species—many of which are known to be sensitive to environmental disturbances—on Singapore reefs through time, integrating information from taxonomically verified museum specimens, careful examination of the literature, and DNA sequences. We found that more Pocilloporidae species were detected in the past than at present. A total of five species were historically recorded under Pocillopora Lamarck, 1816; Seriatopora Lamarck, 1816; and Stylophora Schweigger, 1820. Among the five species, only Pocillopora acuta Lamarck, 1816 appears to remain on Singapore reefs. The absence of Seriatopora for over half a century and the recent losses of Stylophora and the other species of Pocillopora are likely caused by habitat loss and other stressors associated with coastal urbanization, which have been further exacerbated by recent bleaching events.


Coastal modification Pocillopora Scleractinia Sedimentation Species richness 



We especially thank Chua Keng Soon (LKCNHM) and Stephen Cairns (USNM) for assistance with loans, imaging, and cataloging of specimens. We would also like to acknowledge Sin Tsai Min and Lee Ai Chin Michelle from the Tropical Marine Science Institute for additional information on Pocillopora corals in Singapore reefs. Many thanks to Pang Hui En from Experimental Marine Ecology Laboratory and members of the Reef Ecology Laboratory at the Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore, for fieldwork and laboratory support. The comments from James Guest, three anonymous reviewers and Associate Editor Bert Hoeksema greatly improved this paper.


This research is supported by the National Research Foundation, Prime Minister’s Office, Singapore under its Marine Science Research and Development Programme (Award Nos. MSRDP-P03 and MSRDP-P05).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed by the authors.

Sampling and field studies

All necessary permits for sampling and observational field studies have been obtained by the authors from the competent authorities.

Data availability

The datasets generated during and/or analyzed during the current study are available at Zenodo (


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Copyright information

© Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rosa Celia Poquita-Du
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Zheng Bin Randolph Quek
    • 1
  • Sudhanshi Sanjeev Jain
    • 1
  • Sebastian Schmidt-Roach
    • 3
  • Karenne Tun
    • 4
  • Eliza C. Heery
    • 1
  • Loke Ming Chou
    • 2
  • Peter A. Todd
    • 1
    • 2
  • Danwei Huang
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesNational University of Singapore117558Singapore
  2. 2.Tropical Marine Science InstituteNational University of Singapore119227Singapore
  3. 3.Red Sea Research CenterKing Abdullah University of Science and TechnologyThuwalKingdom of Saudi Arabia
  4. 4.Coastal and Marine BranchNational Biodiversity Centre259569Singapore

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