DAO 119:189-198 (2016)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/dao02996

Emerging coral diseases in Kāne‘ohe Bay, O‘ahu, Hawai‘i (USA): two major disease outbreaks of acute Montipora white syndrome

Greta S. Aeby1,2,*, Sean Callahan1,2,3, Evelyn F. Cox1,4, Christina Runyon1,2,3, Ashley Smith1,3, Frank G. Stanton5, Blake Ushijima1,3, Thierry M. Work

1Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology, Kāne‘ohe, HI 96744, USA
2Marine Biology Graduate Program, University of Hawai‘i, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA
3Microbiology Department, University of Hawai‘i, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA
4University of Hawai‘i, West O‘ahu, Kapolei, HI 96707, USA
5Leeward Community College, Pearl City, HI 96782, USA
6US Geological Survey, National Wildlife Health Center, Honolulu Field Station, Honolulu, HI 96850, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: In March 2010 and January 2012, we documented 2 widespread and severe coral disease outbreaks on reefs throughout Kāne‘ohe Bay, Hawai‘i (USA). The disease, acute Montipora white syndrome (aMWS), manifested as acute and progressive tissue loss on the common reef coral M. capitata. Rapid visual surveys in 2010 revealed 338 aMWS-affected M. capitata colonies with a disease abundance of (mean ± SE) 0.02 ± 0.01 affected colonies per m of reef surveyed. In 2012, disease abundance was significantly higher (1232 aMWS-affected colonies) with 0.06 ± 0.02 affected colonies m-1. Prior surveys found few acute tissue loss lesions in M. capitata in Kāne‘ohe Bay; thus, the high number of infected colonies found during these outbreaks would classify this as an emerging disease. Disease abundance was highest in the semi-enclosed region of south Kāne‘ohe Bay, which has a history of nutrient and sediment impacts from terrestrial runoff and stream discharge. In 2010, tagged colonies showed an average tissue loss of 24% after 1 mo, and 92% of the colonies continued to lose tissue in the subsequent month but at a slower rate (chronic tissue loss). The host-specific nature of this disease (affecting only M. capitata) and the apparent spread of lesions between M. capitata colonies in the field suggest a potential transmissible agent. The synchronous appearance of affected colonies on multiple reefs across Kāne‘ohe Bay suggests a common underlying factor. Both outbreaks occurred during the colder, rainy winter months, and thus it is likely that some parameter(s) associated with winter environmental conditions are linked to the emergence of disease outbreaks on these reefs.


KEY WORDS: Coral disease · Kāne‘ohe Bay · Montipora capitata · Hawai‘i · Disease outbreak · Emerging diseases


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Cite this article as: Aeby GS, Callahan S, Cox EF, Runyon C and others (2016) Emerging coral diseases in Kāne‘ohe Bay, O‘ahu, Hawai‘i (USA): two major disease outbreaks of acute Montipora white syndrome. Dis Aquat Org 119:189-198. https://doi.org/10.3354/dao02996

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