New Disease Killing Coral
In Gulf Of Mexico

From Patricia Doyle, PhD

The Gulf of Mexico is dying and the newly discovered virus killing coral in the Gulf is, yet, more evidence of this fact.
The waters have experienced oxygen level decrease as exhibited in fish suffering from hypoxia.
As we continue to kill the waters of the Gulf of Mexico with pollution from recreational and corporate sources, we shall witness more die-offs of coral, dolphins, sea turtles, fish, and eventually the waters now being drilled for oil will be unable to support any marine life.
Once dead, the Gulf of Mexico will NEVER return. Our children and grandchildren will never have the chance to enjoy the Gulf. Gone is gone forever.
Patricia Doyle
A ProMED-mail post ProMED-mail, a program of the International Society for Infectious Diseases
By Kevin Lollar The News-Press, Florida
Already under assault from a variety of diseases, algal blooms, and deadly sponges, the Keys reef tract is facing yet another threat. Scientists recently have discovered a disease that quickly kills staghorn coral, a species whose populations are in drastic decline.
"This is definitely just one more wake-up call that our reefs are not doing well in some areas and our oceans are sick," said Billy Causey, superintendent of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. "What this tells me is that our reefs are extremely vulnerable, and what affects them is really complex. There's no one problem."
NOAA-Fisheries ecologist Margaret Miller and University of Miami postdoctoral associate Dana Williams discovered the disease in late April 2003 at White Banks North and White Banks South patch reefs off Key Largo.
"We were rather heartbroken," Miller said. "We were doing basic monitoring of juvenile colonies of staghorn, and they were growing really well, but then they started dying like flies. We sort of said, 'Hmm, this looks bad.' Over the next couple of weeks, mortality progressed very rapidly. We talked to the sanctuary and they said, 'Hey, something's going on.' "
Sanctuary officials closed the reefs to all human activity in July 2003 for 2 months.
Researchers at Hollings Marine Laboratory in Charleston, S.C., are studying infected staghorn tissue but have not determined what causes the disease. Neither have researchers named it. Staghorn coral is one of the hardest-hit species in the Keys and throughout the Caribbean basin. Populations have declined by up to 95 percent in some locations.
Earlier this month, the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the federal government to put staghorn and its close relatives, fused staghorn and elkhorn, on the Endangered Species List. The disease also might have infected elkhorn and fused staghorn corals.
"It's difficult to tell because we don't know exactly what we're looking at," Williams said. "We've seen disease signs that look remarkably similar in terms of how it kills. It's definitely everywhere and probably has been, but at a low level. Then sometimes it seems to spread more rapidly."
Historically, staghorn coral's greatest enemy has been white band disease, but the newly discovered disease kills more quickly.
"Coral fragments 6 to 8 inches long die within 4 or 5 days," Miller said. "Semi-large colonies, 1/2 a meter to 3/4 of a meter, are 2/3 dead in 2 weeks. It's depressing to watch. By comparison, white band disease spreads only a few millimeters a day."
Experiments at White Banks show that a diseased section of coral can infect a healthy section by direct contact. Miller and Williams also found that the small coral snail, a natural coral predator, can spread the disease, but the disease cannot be spread by humans.
At this point, scientists don't know what the long-term effects of the disease will be.
"That's the $64 000 question," Miller said. "But it's a good reminder that these outbreaks can pop up without notice, and we don't understand how, when, or where. These outbreaks are unpredictable and can have a rapid, drastic impact at individual sites."
Patricia A. Doyle, PhD Please visit my "Emerging Diseases" message board at: Zhan le Devlesa tai sastimasa Go with God and in Good Health



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