DAO 102:137-148 (2012)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/dao02541

Ulcerated yellow spot syndrome: implications of aquaculture-related pathogens associated with soft coral Sarcophyton ehrenbergi tissue lesions

James M. Cervino1,2, Briana Hauff2,3,*, Joshua A. Haslun3, Kathryn Winiarski-Cervino4, Michael Cavazos3, Pamela Lawther2, Andrew M. Wier2, Konrad Hughen1, Kevin B. Strychar3

1Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Department of Marine Chemistry & Geochemistry, Woods Hole, Massachussetts 02543, USA
2Pace University, Department of Biological Sciences, New York, New York 10570, USA 3Texas A&M University − Corpus Christi, Department of Life Sciences, Corpus Christi, Texas 78412, USA
4c/o Environmental Defense Fund, 257 Park Avenue South, New York, New York 10010, USA
*Corresponding author. Email:

ABSTRACT: We introduce a new marine syndrome called ulcerated yellow spot, affecting the soft coral Sarcophyton ehrenbergi. To identify bacteria associated with tissue lesions, tissue and mucus samples were taken during a 2009 Indo-Pacific research expedition near the Wakatobi Island chain, Indonesia. Polymerase chain reaction targeting the 16S rDNA gene indicated associations with the known fish-disease-causing bacterium Photobacterium damselae, as well as multiple Vibrio species. Results indicate a shift toward decreasing diversity of bacteria in lesioned samples. Photobacterium damselae ssp. piscicida, formerly known as Pasteurella piscicida, is known as the causative agent of fish pasteurellosis and in this study, was isolated solely in lesioned tissues. Globally, fish pasteurellosis is one of the most damaging fish diseases in marine aquaculture. Vibrio alginolyticus, a putative pathogen associated with yellow band disease in scleractinian coral, was also isolated from lesioned tissues. Lesions appear to be inflicting damage on symbiotic zooxanthellae (Symbiodinium sp.), measurable by decreases in mitotic index, cell density and photosynthetic efficiency. Mitotic index of zooxanthellae within infected tissue samples was decreased by ~80%, while zooxanthellae densities were decreased by ~40% in lesioned tissue samples compared with healthy coral. These results provide evidence for the presence of known aquaculture pathogens in lesioned soft coral and may be a concern with respect to cross-species epizootics in the tropics.


KEY WORDS: Photobacterium damselae · Indonesia · Vibrio · Zooxanthellae · 16S rDNA · Lesion


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Cite this article as: Cervino JM, Hauff B, Haslun JA, Winiarski-Cervino K and others (2012) Ulcerated yellow spot syndrome: implications of aquaculture-related pathogens associated with soft coral Sarcophyton ehrenbergi tissue lesions. Dis Aquat Org 102:137-148. https://doi.org/10.3354/dao02541

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