Yellow Band on the Rise!

James M. Cervino cnidaria at
Fri Aug 29 09:54:16 EDT 1997

Thanks colleagues for the replys on Rapid Wasting Disease!

Diseases of scleractinian corals have increased significantly over the last
decade, affecting greater numbers of species around the world, (see Santavy
DL, Peters EC., Microbial Pests: Coral Disease In The Western Atlantic
1996. Coral Reef Symp. in press.

Pathogens on corals are becomming more apparent, many attribut this to fish
grazing. The video and slides that I am showing is not fish grazing. Some
think that this has been occuring for some time, and a normal process of
coral reef dynamics.  How long does it take Montastrea and C. natans to
grow?? Some of these REEF BUILDING coral heads are extremely massive and
can take a hundred years to grow, if diseases have been prevalent why is it
that these massive coral heads have not been wiped out 20 years ago??  It
is possible that when some scientists refer to "diseases being a normal
process and have been around" they mean thousands of years. But at this
frequency??? Cant be.  All sites are riddeled w/disease (not just one), and
show signs of, either high level eutropication or begining the signs of
eutropication. All of the sites that I am visiting show cyanobacteria
overgrowing and sometimes smothering the coral skeleton. The video and
slides of reefs that I have been looking at of the Pacific and Caribbean
from the 60s 70s and 80s donot look like the reefs that I am seeing today
today. Goreau and I have been logging approx 300 dives or more per year, in
the Pacific and Caribbean and see a drastic change.

When was the last time you heard someone say:  "the reefs are getting
better" I went diving at that site during the early 80s and its better now"
"the fish are coming back, larger than before" "The algae is gone" I think
this is the year of the troubled reef! And funding the reef mission instead
of the MARS mission I think deserves immediate attention.

Questions to ask:  Why are there high nutrient loads in reef areas
increasing in recent years? Are these excess nutrient loads stressing
cnidarians? What causes oligotrophic reefs to become eutrophic??  Is the
deep water up-welling of nutrients causing reefs to become eutrophic?? We
have visited reefs where there are no signs of human development or sewage,
that show signs of eutropication, however we are seeing many more sites
that show sewage pipes dumping waste directly into the water, along w/leaky
septic tanks. Are anthropogenic sources the cause of these nutrients? After
bleaching events the corals are stressed, are these excess nutrients
lowering the metabolic activity of the coral, preventing it from producing
the mucus to protect itself from invading pathogens (UFOs)? Are these
diseases the result of endolithic pathogens, then during stressful
conditions they multiply expressing a leasion?? Can past cores reveal
skeletal malformities in corals?? Maby it is time to conduct core analysis?

I have recently heard of a Yellow Band affecting Acroporid species in the
Red Sea, Jan Korrubel of the University of Natal South Africa is tracking
this epizootic in the Red Sea. Yellow band was first spotted and tracked by
Creg Qurillo of Reef Relief (Fl. Keys), and I and Dr. TJ Goreau  have now
tracked it in Aruba, Curacao, Bonaire, Cayman, and Panama.  I will be
checking the Virgin Islands next week for RWD and YB, and hopfully getting
the permits in time for sample collection. Fast action and emergency
funding is needed when tracking coral diseases in the field.

Reguarding Yellow Band, I have been tracking the YB here in the Caribbean
since Jan. I wonder if we are looking at the same epizootic? I have not
seen it on any other species other than Montastrea (all morphs).  This is a
slowly expanding leasion, possibly mm per week. And never see it on
Acroporid species.  The YB at my sites are affecting 90% of all morphs of
Montastrea!  When you get a chance to see the video and slides of this
particular epizootic it will shock you.  These are clearly large yellow
blotches and bands that are increasing in growth month after month.

Characterictics of Yellow Blotch or Band

1) there is healthy tissue with no visual evidence of expulsion of zoox.
2) bordering healthy tissue there is a sharp yellow band or blotch, septa
and caylix is intact w/no distruction of the skeleton. The skeleton
structure is up-right w/no depression like in the RWD.
3) in some cases there is tissue attached when the tissue is yellow, as the
tissue dissapears the skeleton turns bright white. Inside that ring or
blotch there is algal tufts, directly in the middle. (Healthy-yellow-slight
white line-dead tissue w/algaltuft)
4) I will be looking at the comparison of zoox. in the healthy tissue then
in the yellow tissue.  Is the bacterial pathogen in YB causing the
expulsion?? No one knows, not yet.
5) Circles or bands on the coral head are incipient at first, then become
severe. Meaning one band or circle then 5 or six. I have detailed video and
slides of of this increase in a 7 month time frame.
6) Finally it kills the entire coral colony that it attacks.
7) We have no idea if it is abiotic or biotic, bacterial aggregates
present. No fungi, no visual mucus response from the coral.
8) Some sites show RWD and YB on the same coral colony.

Dr Goreau and I will have this up on a Web Site This Year. Also an
underwater ID card will be available for divers and scientists for data
analysis by the end of the year. And hopfully we can confirm the RWD and YB
slide and lecture that will take place in Woods Hole and RSMAS during late

James M. Cervino
Marine Biologist
Global Coral Reef Alliance
124-19 9th ave, College Point NY 11356
Phone/Fax 718-539-8155

More information about the Coral-list-old mailing list