Scientists find key piece in coral disease puzzle

| 12/08/2021 | 21 Comments
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(CNS): Researchers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission have found what could prove to be an important piece of the puzzle in what is causing the stony coral tissue loss disease, which is killing coral reefs in the region. SCTLD was first reported off the Florida coast in 2014 and over the last five years it has spread particularly throughout the Caribbean and the east coast of Central America.

It was identified in Cayman off the north coast in June 2020, but since then it has spread around North West Point in West Bay and down to Frank Sound along the southern coastline. Very little is know about this latest coral threat but scientists believe it could be a breakdown in the symbiotic relationship between corals and zooxanthellae algae.

The Department of Environment, which has been coordinating efforts here with the dive and watersports communities to try to control the spread, said the discovery is an “important puzzle piece and a big step towards finding future treatments for this disease”, which has a very high mortality rate and kills dozens of endangered species of coral.

The DoE explained that corals offer a protected host environment for the zooxanthellae to live in and in return the algae provides essential nutrients to the corals. A viral disease in the zooxanthellae could therefore be killing its host, the coral.

The research, which was reported in June, will need to be supported by follow-up studies but the scientists at least now have a reasonable hypothesis to focus on.

The scientist behind the study said the logical next steps would be to confirm the presence of this possible disease in zooxanthellae through other means and attempt to replicate the virus seen in the research in the lab to allow for a better understanding of it and the coral host’s response and to identify the virus through molecular means.

“Assessing whether SCTLD can be reproduced in corals known to be AVLP (anisometric viral like particles) negative would be important and would ease the development and validation of rapid diagnostic assays to detect the virus in the field. This would then permit a better understanding of the epidemiology of infections possibly setting the stage for management options and interventions,” the scientists stated in the report.

Meanwhile, the DoE experts urged people to continue disinfecting their boats, dive and snorkel gear between dives, and to avoid visiting sites where the disease has not yet been spotted after diving or snorkelling on sites where the disease is known to be.

See Disinfecting Guidelines from NOAA

See report in the CNS Library

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Category: Marine Environment, Science & Nature

Comments (21)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Thought they were trying to pin this on cruise ships? 🤔

    • Anonymous says:

      Scientists don’t try to “pin” anything…they form a hypothesis, test that hypothesis through various experiments, and then produce results. The results are of an unbiased nature in order to learn more about the organisms in question.

  2. Anonymous says:

    The ‘rona of the sea.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Tinkering with viruses… What could go wrong? 🤷‍♂️

  4. Anonymous says:

    Florida / USA comes to the rescue again! Thank you.

  5. Susan says:

    What is the matter with you people saying you believe in God not science? If you truly knew God and trusted in Him you would KNOW that that His gift to us is the knowledge He imparts to the scientists for the good of man/woman/it (or whatever you are identifying as). All good things are gifts from Him. Shame on you for throwing the gifts of knowledge He is giving us to help us back in His face.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Even the coral dying from disease. So sad! Mother earth/God is truly talking to us people.

  7. Anonymous says:

    That’s great but we believe in God, not science.

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