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St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center

Coral Reef Ecosystem Studies (CREST)

Research: Coral Disease

For more images of coral diesease see: Black-Band Disease and Coral Bleaching galleries.
White band disease on Acropora palmata
White band disease on Acropora palmata (Elkhorn coral) in the Virgin Islands National Park. Photo credit: Ginger Garrison, USGS. [larger version]
Black band disease affecting Diploria strigosa
Black band disease affecting Diploria strigosa (brain coral). Photo credit: Ginger Garrison, USGS. [larger version]
White plague disease affecting Montastraea faveolata
White plague disease affecting Montastraea faveolata (boulder star coral). Photo credit: Marilyn E. Brandt. [larger version]
Yellow blotch/band disease on Montastraea cavernosa
Yellow blotch/band disease on Montastraea cavernosa (great star coral). Photo credit: USGS. [larger version]

Coral diseases were first reported on reefs in the Florida Keys and Caribbean in the 1970s. In the decades since, they have been reported worldwide and with increasing frequency. Disease is now recognized as one of the major causes of reef degradation and coral mortality. Recent research has suggested that coral diseases may be secondary opportunistic infections, rather than the result of primary pathogens, making it imperative to understand the microbial shifts that accompany the transition from healthy to diseased corals. Additionally, we need to determine if the spread of coral disease is affected by the level of connectivity among water masses, organisms, trophic levels, or habitats. See black-band disease and coral bleaching galleries.

We are investigating coral disease processes and causes by characterizing microbial communities in diseased and healthy representatives of selected coral species both temporally and spatially by employing microarray technology. We are testing the diagnostic potential of coral fluorescence for identifying disease-induced physiological stress. This work links coral ecosystem studies in marine protected areas to better understand coral ecosystem health.

Specific efforts include:

Publications

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