MEPS - Vol. 506 - FEATURE ARTICLE

Diadema africanum displaying symptoms of disease and accumulations of dead individuals recorded during the mortality event in the Canary Islands. Image: Julián Rodríguez Medina

Clemente S, Lorenzo-Morales J, Mendoza JC, López C, Sangil C, Alves F, Kaufmann M, Hernández JC

 

Sea urchin Diadema africanum mass mortality in the subtropical eastern Atlantic: role of waterborne bacteria in a warming ocean

 

Mass mortality events of diverse organisms have been widely described in the marine environment. Clemente and co-workers examined the first documented disease related die-off of a diadematid sea urchin in the eastern Atlantic Ocean. Anomalous high sea water temperatures recorded in the region enabled infection of Diadema africanum by the waterborne pathogenic bacteria Vibrio algynoliticus and resulted in a mortality episode that spread across more than 400 km, at a latitudinal range from 32.8 ºN to 27.3 ºN. The consequences of mass mortality events of key herbivore sea urchins can mediate transitions between alternate ecosystem states and control urchin dominated barren grounds, affecting the stability of benthic systems, especially if warming events become more frequent in the near future.

 

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