MEPS 318:103-110 (2006)  -  doi:10.3354/meps318103

Factors affecting susceptibility of the coral Montastraea faveolata to black-band disease

Greta S. Aeby1,3,*, Deborah L. Santavy2

1Department of Biology, University of West Florida, 11000 University Parkway, Pensacola, Florida 32514-5751, USA
2US Environment Protection Agency, National Health and Environmental Effects Laboratory, Gulf Ecology Division, 1 Sabine Island Drive, Gulf Breeze, Florida 32561-5299, USA
3Present address: Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, PO Box 1346, Kaneohe, Hawaii 96744, USA

ABSTRACT: Black-band disease affects many species of tropical reef-building corals, but it is unclear what factors contribute to the disease-susceptibility of individual corals or how the disease is transmitted between colonies. Studies have suggested that the ability of black-band disease to infect coral is enhanced by different stressors. We examined the effect of both water temperature and mechanical injury on the ability of this disease to infect the reef coral Montastraea faveolata, and investigated the possibility of an interaction between the 2 stressors. Under laboratory conditions, Phormidium corallyticum was able to successfully invade all injured fragments but no uninjured fragments of M. faveolata, irrespective of temperature regime. We also determined whether the local coral-feeding butterflyfish Chaetodon capistratus was involved in the inter-colony transfer of black-band disease. In aquaria, the presence of C. capistratus increased the rate at which the disease spread from infected to non-infected fragments of M. faveolata. Both corals that were protected from and those that were exposed to fish predation contracted the disease. Hence, either direct oral transmission of the pathogen from colony to colony and/or indirect fecal transmission could be occurring. Variables such as potential stressors and/or disease vectors on a reef could contribute to the patterns of black-band disease observed in the field.

KEY WORDS: Black-band disease · Susceptibility · Coral · Coral injury · Coral disease · Transmission · Vectors · Butterflyfish

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