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Aquaculture Environment Interactions

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AEI 12:61-66 (2020)  -  DOI:

Biological controls to manage Acropora-eating flatworms in coral aquaculture

Jonathan A. Barton1,2,3,*, Craig Humphrey2,3, David G. Bourne1,2, Kate S. Hutson1,4

1College of Science and Engineering, James Cook University, Douglas, QLD 4814, Australia
2Australian Institute of Marine Science, Cape Cleveland, QLD 4816, Australia
3AIMS@JCU, James Cook University, DB17-148, Townsville, QLD 4811, Australia
4Cawthron Institute, 98 Halifax Street East, Nelson 7010, New Zealand
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Coral aquaculture is expanding to supply the marine ornamental trade and active coral reef restoration. A common pest of Acropora corals is the Acropora-eating flatworm Prosthiostomum acroporae, which can cause colonial mortality at high infestation densities on Acropora spp. We investigated the potential of 2 biological control organisms in marine aquaria for the control of P. acroporae infestations. A. millepora fragments infested with adult polyclad flatworms (5 flatworms fragment-1) or single egg clusters laid on Acropora skeleton were cohabited with either sixline wrasse Pseudocheilinus hexataenia or the peppermint shrimp Lysmata vittata and compared to a control (i.e. no predator) to assess their ability to consume P. acroporae at different life stages over 24 h. P. hexataenia consumed 100% of adult flatworms from A. millepora fragments (n = 9; 5 flatworms fragment-1), while L. vittata consumed 82.0 ± 26.76% of adult flatworms (mean ± SD; n = 20). Pseudocheilinus hexataenia did not consume any Prosthiostomum acroporae egg capsules, while L. vittata consumed 63.67 ± 43.48% (n = 20) of egg capsules on the Acropora skeletons. Mean handling losses in controls were 5.83% (shrimp system) and 7.50% (fish system) of flatworms and 2.39% (fish system) and 7.50% (shrimp system) of egg capsules. Encounters between L. vittata and P. hexataenia result in predation of P. acroporae on an Acropora coral host and represent viable biological controls for reducing infestations of P. acroporae in aquaculture systems.

KEY WORDS: Prosthiostomum acroporae · Acropora-eating flatworm · Lysmata vittata · Pseudocheilinus hexataenia · Biological control · Coral aquaculture

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Cite this article as: Barton JA, Humphrey C, Bourne DG, Hutson KS (2020) Biological controls to manage Acropora-eating flatworms in coral aquaculture. Aquacult Environ Interact 12:61-66.

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