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Diseases of Aquatic Organisms

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DAO 69:75-78 (2006)  -  doi:10.3354/dao069075

Folliculinid ciliates: a new threat to Caribbean corals?

Aldo Cróquer1,*, Carolina Bastidas1, Diana Lipscomb2

1Departamento de Biología de Organismos, Universidad Simón Bolívar, Caracas 1080-A, Venezuela
2Department of Biological Sciences, George Washington University, Washington, DC 20052, USA

ABSTRACT: This is the first report of a putative pathogenic ciliate protozoan that has been associated with Caribbean corals. Previously, only 2 species of the phylum Ciliophora had been linked to coral diseases, and they were exclusive to the Indo-Pacific region. In this study, a ciliate of the genus Halofolliculina was found on 10 hard coral species at the National Parks of Los Roques and Morrocoy, Venezuela. The general morphology of this ciliate is very similar to that of Halofolliculina corallasia from the Indo-Pacific, which is known to cause skeletal eroding band. None of the other 31 genera in the family Folliculinidae are known to cause diseases in corals or in any other animal species. The presence of this ciliate, which shows a prevalence comparable to that of other epizootics in the Caribbean, suggests it could be a new threat to the coral reefs of this region.

KEY WORDS: Coral · Ciliate · Disease · Caribbean · Coral reefs

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