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Diseases of Aquatic Organisms

    DAO prepress abstract   -  DOI:

    Detrimental conditions affecting Xestospongia muta across shallow and mesophotic coral reefs off the southwest coast of Puerto Rico

    J. E. García-Hernández*, E. Tuohy, D. A. Toledo-Rodríguez, C. Sherman, N. V. Schizas*, E. Weil

    *Corresponding author:

    ABSTRACT: Sponges are fundamental components of coral reef communities, unfortunately, like other major benthic members, they too have been impacted by epizootic and panzootic events. We report on the prevalence of disease-like conditions affecting populations of the giant barrel sponge, Xestospongia muta, across shallow and mesophotic coral reefs off La Parguera Natural Reserve and Mona Island Marine Reserve in Puerto Rico. Four different conditions affecting X. muta were observed during our surveys, of which, three were reported previously: cyclic spotted bleaching (CSB; apparently non-lethal), Xestospongia-tissue wasting disease (X-TWD), which is apparently lethal, and sponge orange band disease (SOB), sparsely associated with X-TWD infected individuals. Additionally, we provide a description of a fourth condition, Xestospongia-exopinacoderm hardening condition (X-EHC), a previously unreported disease recently observed along the insular shelf margin off LPNR and MIMR. Within LPNR, a total of 764 specimens of X. muta were inspected and measured. Of these, 590 (72.2%) had CSB, 25 (3.27%) had signs of X-TWD, seven (0.92%) had SOB, the remaining 142 (18.6%) sponges were considered apparently healthy. Three colonies inhabiting upper mesophotic depths at LPNR insular shelf showed signs of CSB and X-TWD. At MIMR, video-transect surveys revealed a total of 514 colonies, of which 40 (7.78%) had signs of CSB and/or X-TWD, 14 (2.72%) were affected by X-EHC, while the remaining 460 (89.5%) colonies showed no external signs of diseased and appeared healthy.