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Diseases of Aquatic Organisms

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DAO 78:255-264 (2008)  -  DOI:

Distribution and morphology of growth anomalies in Acropora from the Indo-Pacific

Thierry M. Work1,*, Greta S. Aeby2, Steve L. Coles3

1US Geological Survey, National Wildlife Health Center, Honolulu Field Station, 300 Ala Moana Blvd., Room 5-231, Honolulu, Hawaii 96850, USA
2Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, University of Hawaii, PO Box 1346, Kaneohe, Hawaii 96744, USA
3Bishop Museum, 1525 Bernice Street, Honolulu, Hawaii 96817, USA

ABSTRACT: We assessed the distribution and prevalence of growth anomalies (GAs) in Acropora from French Frigate Shoals (Hawaii, USA), Johnston Atoll and Tutuila (American Samoa), developed a nomenclature for gross morphology, characterized GAs at the cellular level and obtained preliminary indices of their spatial patterns and progression within coral colonies. Acropora GAs were found in all 3 regions, but the distribution, variety and prevalence of Acropora GAs was highest in American Samoa. GAs were grouped into 7 gross morphologies (exophytic, bosselated, crateriform, nodular, vermiform, fimbriate or annular). On histology, GAs consisted of hyperplastic basal body wall (calicodermis, mesoglea and gastrodermis apposed to skeleton) with 3 distinct patterns of necrosis. There was no evidence of anaplasia or mitotic figures (common but not necessarily required morphologic indicators of neoplasia). Compared to normal tissues, GAs had significantly fewer polyps, zooxanthellae within the gastrodermis of the coenenchyme, mesenterial filaments and gonads but significantly more necrosis. On 2 colonies with GAs monitored at 2 points over 11 mo, numbers of GAs per colony increased from 0.9 to 3 times the original number seen, and significant clustering of GAs occurred within colonies. The evidence of GAs being true neoplasias (tumors) is mixed, so a cautionary approach is urged in use of morphologic terminology.

KEY WORDS: Acropora · Growth anomaly · Epizootiology · Johnston Atoll · French Frigate Shoals · American Samoa

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Cite this article as: Work TM, Aeby GS, Coles SL (2008) Distribution and morphology of growth anomalies in Acropora from the Indo-Pacific. Dis Aquat Org 78:255-264.

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