The first incidence of an alien soft coral of the family Xeniidae in the Caribbean, an invasion in eastern Venezuelan coral communities
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KeywordsCoral Reef Venezuela Coral Coverage Soft Coral Scleractinian Coral
Octocorals in family Xeniidae (Ehrenberg, 1828) constitute an abundant component of many Indo-Pacific coral reefs. Several xeniids are ephemeral pioneers, with rapid growth rates, high fecundity, and extensive vegetative reproduction (Benayahu and Loya 1985). There is increased evidence that opportunistic Xeniidae are taking over degraded reef substrata (Tilot et al. 2008) and have thus become highly relevant to ecological processes on coral reefs, affecting their colonization, restoration, and function.
The current findings are the first report of an invasive soft coral of the Xeniidae and its expansion beyond the Indo-Pacific region. It appears to have been illegally introduced into Venezuela by commercial aquarists and intentionally seeded in the rocky substrate for propagation and farming purposes. There has been no attempt to remove the species. The ecological consequences of the invasion, and both spatial and temporal changes in its spread, should undoubtedly be carefully monitored.
We thank V. Wexler for digital editing and N. Paz for skillful editorial assistance.
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