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Diseases of Aquatic Organisms

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DAO 116:121-131 (2015)  -  DOI:

Explained and unexplained tissue loss in corals from the Tropical Eastern Pacific

Jenny Carolina Rodríguez-Villalobos1,*, Thierry Martin Work2, Luis Eduardo Calderon-Aguilera1, Héctor Reyes-Bonilla3, Luis Hernández3

1Departamento de Ecología Marina, Centro de Investigación Científica y de Educación Superior de Ensenada (CICESE), Carretera Ensenada-Tijuana, # 3918, Zona Playitas, CP 22860 Ensenada, BC, Mexico
2US Geological Survey, National Wildlife Health Center, Honolulu Field Station, 300 Ala Moana Blvd., Room 8-132, Honolulu, HI 96850, USA
3Departamento de Biología Marina, Universidad Autónoma de Baja California Sur, La Paz, BCS, Mexico
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Coral reefs rival rainforest in biodiversity, but are declining in part because of disease. Tissue loss lesions, a manifestation of disease, are present in dominant Pocillopora along the Pacific coast of Mexico. We characterized tissue loss in 7 species of Pocillopora from 9 locations (44 sites) spanning southern to northern Mexico. Corals were identified to species, and tissue loss lesions were photographed and classified as those explainable by predation and those that were unexplained. A focal predation study was done concurrently at 3 locations to confirm origin of explained lesions. Of 1054 cases of tissue loss in 7 species of corals, 84% were associated with predation (fish, snails, or seastar) and the remainder were unexplained. Types of tissue loss were not related to coral density; however there was significant geographic heterogeneity in type of lesion; one site in particular (Cabo Pulmo) had the highest prevalence of predator-induced tissue loss (mainly pufferfish predation). Crown-of-thorns starfish, pufferfish, and snails were the most common predators and preferred P. verrucosa, P. meandrina, and P. capitata, respectively. Of the 9 locations, 4 had unexplained tissue loss with prevalence ranging from 1 to 3% with no species predilection. Unexplained tissue loss was similar to white syndrome (WS) in morphology, indicating additional study is necessary to clarify the cause(s) of the lesions and the potential impacts to dominant corals along the Pacific coast of Mexico.

KEY WORDS: Pocillopora · Lesions · Predation · Disease

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Cite this article as: Rodríguez-Villalobos JC, Work TM, Calderon-Aguilera LE, Reyes-Bonilla H, Hernández L (2015) Explained and unexplained tissue loss in corals from the Tropical Eastern Pacific. Dis Aquat Org 116:121-131.

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