Who Ate the Green Plate?

I wasn’t the one who took that bite out of that green plate coral. Can you see what looks like a bite mark? It is at about 4 o’clock on the large, green, plate coral, which is also one of the transect photographs taken last week, on 22nd February at Pixie Reef by Leonard Lim.

Corals one metre along what was the second transect at 3 metres’ depth at the front of Pixie Reef on 22nd February 2021. Photo credit: Leo Lim.

I’m so proud of the 360 underwater photographs taken along 36 transects that were laid in four different habitat types: at the reef front, in the back lagoon, at the reef crest, and we also laid three transects at the bottom of the reef crest – beginning at a depth of ten metres at what I’m calling the western flank. It was hard work, over two days, but these photographs and the corresponding videos will provide some evidence as to the state of the corals at Pixie reef for that moment in time. 

I was so grateful that we were able to lay transects along the reef front at Pixie. If you click on the thumbnails in the above table you will see some of the photographs. There will be many more uploaded at the ‘Pixie Reef Data Page 2021’ over the next couple of weeks. Leo took 120 photographs from the reef front at two different depths: 3 metres and also 6 metres. 

Last November, I only visited the back lagoon. More usually, the prevailing wind is blowing onto the reef from the south east/from the front making access to this front section of the reef difficult. But on 22nd February the wind was blowing from the north northwest. (It was a hot day, and we did return to harbour under Anvil clouds, with Stuart bringing his little speed boat with us safely through a storm that afternoon. Thank you.) 

This reef, Pixie Reef, was ‘surveyed’ back on 22nd March 2016 from the air by Terry Hughes of James Cook University during one of his fly pasts. It was concluded from that single observation/glance-down from 150 metres altitude that that this reef was 65% bleached. The inshore reefs north of Cairns were more or less all written-off, back then, by the experts and the mainstream media, as ruin – as dead. But they are not, not at all. (And I do worry for all the children who now believe this precious environment/the Great Barrier Reef is dead from ‘carbon dioxide pollution’.) 

Pixie Reef was one of thousands of coral reefs ‘surveyed’ during March to April 2016, with the overall conclusion – reported on the front-pages of newspapers worldwide and now incorporated into schoolbooks – being that the Great Barrier Reef is more than half dead: that more than half of the corals have suddenly died from global warming. 

It is my hypothesis that these coral health assessments of the Great Barrier Reef, comprising 1,156 reefs including Pixie Reef as published in the peer-reviewed technical literature by Terry Hughes and others, are yet another example of the mismatch between official government-sponsored (taxpayer funded) propaganda masquerading as science, versus reality. 

Jen floating, with aerial photograph taken at 20 metres above the front of Pixie Reef on 22nd February, just before the thunderstorm hit.
Jen floating above the reef front, holding a safety sausage showing exactly one metre. This aerial was taken by Stuart Ireland at exactly 120 metres altitude.

It is only under the water that we can see the true state of the corals. 

Of course, Pixie Reef is where I found and named that extraordinary, large and old Porites after Craig Kelly MP. I visited ‘Porites Craig’ again on 22nd February. That bolder coral still looks relatively pale from a distance, but up close it is evident that the massive coral colony/Porites Craig has a lot of colour – with all its corallites intact and healthy.

The massive Porites in the back lagoon at Pixie Reef. Photographed with me on 22nd February by Leo Lim.
Porites Craig is massive, and a thin veneer of living coral comprising so many corallites as shown in this photographs taken by me (Jennifer Marohasy) on 22nd January 2021.

There is such a diversity of different coral types, coral species and in so many different coral colours at Pixie Reef. 

And what about that green plate coral – with the bite mark? (Could it be from the pixies?)

A green plate coral missing some/with a bite mark.

I hypothesis that the little beige-coloured brain coral, which you can see directly under what I am describing as the bite mark, is responsible. This is perhaps a species of FavitesSymphyllia, and it could be extending its tentacles at night and eating up that section of plate coral directly above it. Very likely the Symphyllia sp.Favites sp. is eating away at the Acropora sp., so it has access to sunlight for its own zooxanthellae. 

There are so many of them at Pixie Reef – all different types of corals including healthy plate corals in shades of green and also brown. You can see them in the transect photographs, click across to the new page where they will be uploaded over the next couple of weeks: https://jennifermarohasy.com/coralreefs/pixie2021/ . 

So many pretty corals, but no pixies.


This is Part 4 of ‘Measuring Old Corals & Coral Reefs’, essentially written to let everyone know about the new data page for Pixie Reef. You can access other data pages here: https://jennifermarohasy.com/coralreefs/

There has already been a Part 1 and a Part 2:

The blog post about the garden of old Porites at Myrmidon should really be Part 3, ‘tis here: https://jennifermarohasy.com/2020/12/gardens-of-old-porites-without-sharks/

And so much thanks to Leonard Lim and Stuart Ireland for all the photographs and video from Pixie last week, and to The B. Macfie Family Foundation for believing in us. 

Pixie Reef on 22nd February 2021 from about 120 metres looking to the east. Photo credit: Stuart Ireland.