The Disease Threatening Coral Reefs In Martin County

Just off our shores, not much more than a good swim from the sand, you could, until recently, find the most majestic of creatures, on land or at sea. Scientists named it orbicella faveolata. But a dive boat captain would tell you to look for the mountainous star coral, a name befitting its stature.

It began its life in 1694, one year before the Spanish built the Castillo de San Marcos fort in St. Augustine. For 323 years it grew slowly into a formation of coral the size of a Volkswagen, covered in small ridges and peaks, the color of rich mustard and pockmarked with little holes where it takes in life.

“It was pretty spectacular and impossible to replace,” says Martin County Commissioner Doug Smith. “We’re talking about a coral, a living creature, that was more than 300 years old. That’s extremely unique.”

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