The Coral Fauna of Aceh, Indonesia

Author: Andrew Baird

Andrew Baird has recently returned from a research trip to Aceh, Indonesia. The aims of the trip were to present some of Project Phoenix’s results to colleagues at Syiah Kuala University (Universitas Syiah Kuala; USK) in Banda Aceh and to curate the coral specimens collected on previous trips to Aceh.

The results that Andrew presented on the identity of the Acropora corals of Aceh are incredibly exciting. While there are unfortunately only 21 specimens from Aceh in the most recent phylogeny, preliminary results suggest that these specimens are from 13 species, up to nine of which are likely to be new to science (Fig. 1). This is not surprising given the lack of research in the region plus the geographical location and the environmental setting of the Andaman Sea. Then again, the discovery of new species and high levels of endemism are the dominant themes in Project Phoenix’s research into the Acropora to date.

Figure 1. Field image of an Acropora colony that is likely to be new to science. Photo credit: Andrew Baird

Andrew’s talk was followed by an afternoon with the students of Dr Nur Fadli’s lab who helped Andrew photograph and curate the specimens of the Aceh collection now on display in Dr Fadli’s lab at USK. We hope that this collection will soon include holotypes and paratypes of the new species we plan to describe from Aceh.

Andrew’s trip also included a question-and-answer session at the high school in Lhoknga, catching up with many old friends and enjoying the wonderful food and hospitality of the Acehnese. Andrew and Dr Fadli also discussed opportunities for future collaborations between USK and James Cook University in Australia.

Andrew would like to thank Dr Nur Fadli for the opportunity to present his research at USK, Yudi and the staff at Yudi’s Place for their hospitality, Yusnida and Eka for a wonderful home cooked meal, Jon and Nadia for sunset refreshments following long hours out the back and all the locals that make Lhoknga such a special place. 

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