Species composition of Alcyonacea (Octocorallia) on coral reefs at Europa Island and associated connectivity across the Mozambique Channel


The soft coral fauna (Octocorallia: Alcyonacea) on reefs around Europa Island (Western Indian Ocean) were surveyed in 2016. The species richness was rather low for a protected, relatively pristine environment in the region. While certain ‘fugitive’ alcyonacean species were noticeably abundant, other soft corals were rare or absent. Since Europa Island is remote and isolated, connectivity was thus investigated with other alcyonacean communities in the Mozambique Channel by particle transport modelling. This revealed that, while the north-west coast of Madagascar appears well-connected with the northern Mozambique coast, the most likely source of soft coral recruits at Europa Island would be the Tulear region further south in Madagascar.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5


  1. Benayahu Y, Schleyer MH (1996) Corals of the south-west Indian Ocean III. Alcyonacea (Octocorallia) from Bazaruto Island, Mozambique, with a redescription of Cladiella australis (Macfadyen 1936) and description of Cladiella kashmani spec. nov. Invest Rep Oceanogr Res Inst 69:1–21

    Google Scholar 

  2. Benayahu Y, Shlagman A, Schleyer MH (2002) Corals of the South-west Indian Ocean VI. The Alcyonacea (Octocorallia) of Mozambique; with a discussion on soft coral distribution along south equatorial East-African reefs. Zool Verh 345:49–57

    Google Scholar 

  3. Ben-David-Zaslow R, Benayahu Y (1996) Longevity, competence and energetic content in planulae of the soft coral Heteroxenia fuscescens. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 206:55–68

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Ben-David-Zaslow R, Benyahau Y (1998) Competence and longevity in planulae of several species of soft corals. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 163:235–243

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Chabanet P, Andréfouët S, Barroil P, Bec B, Bélières A, Bigot L et al (2017) Suivi et inventaire des récifs coralliens de Mayotte et des îles Eparses: Glorieuses 2015, Mayotte 2016 et Europa 2016. Programme SIREME. Rapport IRD pour le compte des TAAF, AFD, UE et Département de Mayotte

  6. Fabricius KE (1995) Slow population turnover in the soft coral genera Sinularia and Sarcophyton on mid- and outer-shelf reefs of the Great Barrier Reef. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 126:145–152

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Halo I (2012) The Mozambique Channel eddies: characteristics and mechanisms of formation. PhD dissertation, University of Cape Town, 200 pp

  8. Halo I, Backeberg B, Penven P, Ansorge I, Reason C, Ullgren JE (2014) Eddy properties in the Mozambique Channel: a comparison between observations and two numerical ocean circulation models. Deep-Sea Res 100:38–53

    Google Scholar 

  9. Harriott VJ, Smith SDA, Harrison PL (1994) Patterns of coral community structure of subtropical reefs in the Solitary Islands Marine Reserve, Eastern Australia. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 109:67–76

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Lett C, Verley P, Mullon C, Parada C, Brochier T, Penven P, Blanke B (2008) A Lagrangian tool for modelling ichthyoplankton dynamics. Environ Model Softw 23:1210–1214

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Quétel C, Marinesque S, Ringler D, Fillinger LA, Changeux T, Marteau C, Troussellier M (2016) Iles Eparses (SW Indian Ocean) as reference ecosystems for environmental research. Acta Oecol 72:1–8

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Schleyer MH, Benayahu Y (2018) The soft coral fauna (Octocorallia: Alcyonacea) of Mayotte. Mar Biodivers 48:1643–1650

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Schleyer MH, Celliers L (2005) The coral reefs of Bazaruto Island, Mozambique, with recommendations for their management. West Ind Ocean J Mar Sci 4:227–236

    Google Scholar 

  14. Schleyer MH, Bigot L, Benayahu Y (2018) Coral reefs of the Glorieuses Islands, Western Indian Ocean. Afr J Mar Sci 40:331–339

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Tixier-Durivault A (1966) Octocoralliaires de Madagascar et des iles avoisinantes. Faune de Madagascar 21:1–456

    Google Scholar 

  16. van Ofwegen LP, Benayahu Y (1992) Notes on Alcyonacea (Octocorallia) from Tanzania. Zool Med 66:139–154

    Google Scholar 

  17. Verseveldt J (1969) Octocorallia from north-western Madagascar (part I). Zool Verh 106:1–38

    Google Scholar 

  18. Verseveldt J (1971) Octocorallia from north-western Madagascar (part II). Zool Verh 117:1–73

    Google Scholar 

  19. Verseveldt J (1973a) Octocorallia from north-western Madagascar (part IIIA). Proc K Ned Akad Wet Ser C 76:69–100

    Google Scholar 

  20. Verseveldt J (1973b) Octocorallia from north-western Madagascar (part IIIB). Verh K Ned Akad Wet 117:89–157

    Google Scholar 

  21. Verseveldt J (1973c) Octocorallia from north-western Madagascar (part IIIC). Verh K Ned Akad Wet 117:158–171

    Google Scholar 

Download references


This project formed part of the SIREME programme co-ordinated by Pascale Chabanet (Représentante de l’IRD à La Réunion, à Mayotte et aux Iles Eparses). Sample analysis and write-up were supported by a National Research Foundation Grant (MHS) and the Israel Cohen Chair in Environmental Zoology (YB). Support was provided in the field by TAAF, and by Nicolas and Anne Tisné on the research yacht Antsiva. Alex Shlagman attended to the curation of the preserved soft coral specimens in the Steinhardt Museum of Natural History, Tel Aviv University, Israel. The authors thank two anonymous reviewers and the editor for useful comments that improved the manuscript.


This study was funded by the 10th European Regional Development Fund (Xe FED) in close collaboration with Conseil Départemental de Mayotte (CDM) and Terres Australes et Antarctiques Française (TAAF) under the supervision of the French Development Agency (AFD).

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to M. H. Schleyer.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Sampling and field studies

All necessary permits for sampling and observational field studies have been obtained by the authors from the competent authorities and are mentioned in the acknowledgements, if applicable.

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

Data availability

All data generated or analysed during this study are included in this published article.

Additional information

Publisher’s note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Communicated by B. W. Hoeksema

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Schleyer, M.H., Downey-Breedt, N.J. & Benayahu, Y. Species composition of Alcyonacea (Octocorallia) on coral reefs at Europa Island and associated connectivity across the Mozambique Channel. Mar Biodiv 49, 2485–2491 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12526-019-00975-7

Download citation


  • Soft corals
  • Larval dispersal
  • Particle transport modelling
  • Oceanographic eddies
  • East Africa
  • Madagascar
  • Western Indian Ocean