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Diseases of Aquatic Organisms

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DAO 99:95-102 (2012)  -  DOI:

Sponge white patch disease affecting the Caribbean sponge Amphimedon compressa

H. Angermeier1, V. Glöckner1, J. R. Pawlik2, N. L. Lindquist3, U. Hentschel1,*

1Julius-von-Sachs-Institute for Biological Sciences, University of Würzburg, 97082 Würzburg, Germany
2Department of Biology and Marine Biology, Center for Marine Science, University of North Carolina Wilmington, Wilmington, North Carolina 28403-5928, USA
3Institute of Marine Sciences, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 28557, USA
*Corresponding author. Email:

ABSTRACT: We report on a novel sponge disease, hereafter termed ‘sponge white patch’ (SWP), affecting the Caribbean sponge species Amphimedon compressa. SWP is characterized by distinctive white patches of variable size that are found irregularly on the branches of diseased sponges. Nearly 20% of the population of A. compressa at Dry Rocks Reef, Florida, USA, showed symptoms of SWP at the time of investigation (November 2007−July 2010). Approximately 21% of the biomass of SWP individuals was bleached, as determined by volume displacement. Scanning electron microscopy analysis showed severe degradation of bleached tissues. Transmission electron microscopy of the same tissues revealed the presence of a spongin-boring bacterial morphotype that had previously been implicated in sponge disease (Webster et al. 2002; Mar Ecol Prog Ser 232:305−309). This particular morphotype was identified in 8 of 9 diseased A. compressa individuals investigated in this study. A close relative of the aforementioned disease-causing alphaproteobacterium was also isolated from bleached tissues of A. compressa. However, whether the spongin-boring bacteria are true pathogens or merely opportunistic colonizers remains to be investigated. Molecular fingerprinting by denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) demonstrated a distinct shift from the microbiota of healthy A. compressa to a heterogeneous mixture of environmental bacteria, including several phylotypes previously implicated in sponge stress or coral disease. Nevertheless, tissue transplantation experiments conducted in the field failed to demonstrate infectivity from diseased to healthy sponges, leaving the cause of SWP in A. compressa to be identified.

KEY WORDS: Porifera · Spongin-boring bacterium · Coral reef disease · Pathogenesis · Alphaproteobacterium

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Cite this article as: Angermeier H, Glöckner V, Pawlik JR, Lindquist NL, Hentschel U (2012) Sponge white patch disease affecting the Caribbean sponge Amphimedon compressa. Dis Aquat Org 99:95-102.

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