Inter-Research >  > Prepress Abstract
DAO
Diseases of Aquatic Organisms

    DAO prepress abstract   -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/dao03441

    Ecology, histopathology, and microbial ecology of a white-band disease outbreak in the Threatened staghorn coral Acropora cervicornis

    Sarah A. Gignoux-Wolfsohn*, William F. Precht, Esther C. Peters, E. Brooke Gintert, Leslie S. Kaufman

    *Corresponding author:

    ABSTRACT: This study is a multi-pronged description of a temperature-induced outbreak of white-band disease (WBD) that occurred in Acropora cervicornis off northern Miami Beach from July to October 2014. We describe the ecology of the disease and examine diseased corals using both histopathology and next-generation bacterial 16S gene sequencing, making it possible to better understand the effect this disease has on the coral holobiont, and to address some of the seeming contradictions among previous studies of WBD that employed either a purely histological or molecular approach. The outbreak began in July 2014, as sea surface temperatures reached 29o C, and peaked in mid-September, a month after the sea surface temperature maximum. The microscopic anatomy of apparently healthy portions of colonies displaying active disease signs appeared normal except for some tissue atrophy and dissociation of mesenterial filaments deep within the branch. Structural changes were more pronounced in visibly diseased fragments, with atrophy, necrosis, and lysing of surface and basal body wall and polyp structures at the tissue-loss margin. The only bacteria evident microscopically in both diseased and apparently healthy tissues with Giemsa staining was a Rickettsiales-like organism (RLO) occupying mucocytes. Sequencing also identified bacteria belonging to the order Rickettsiales in all fragments. When compared to apparently healthy fragments, diseased fragments had more diverse bacterial communities made up of many previously suggested potential primary pathogens and secondary (opportunistic) colonizers. Interactions between elevated seawater temperatures, the coral host, and pathogenic members of the diseased microbiome all contribute to the coral displaying signs of WBD.