MSc thesis

Camilla Floros FlorosC at
Tue Sep 19 03:24:15 EDT 2000

I am a MSc student carrying out research at Sodwana Bay on the north coast of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. My project attempts to assess coral reef stress, a major component of which deals with parasite loading. I am investigating infestations of the polychaete worm Spirobranchus giganteus (commonly know as the christmas-tree worm) on the plate coral Acropora clathrata. The literature available on parasite loading is very scarce and I am having problems finding answers to the following questions:

1. Is Spirobranchus indeed a parasite? Does its presence have any negative/stress effect on the plate coral e.g retard growth?

2. Can parasite loading be used as an indication of coral stress?

3. All Spirobranchus are found on living corals. So, how do the polychaete larvae settle on the coral with out being eaten by the polyps? Perhaps the larvae are settling on dead coral spots, and if so, could this indicate that the corals are already stressed and thus more prone to parasite infestations?  

While collecting data I have noted a type of barnacle that bores into the surface of the plate corals, often in large numbers. I have been unable to identify this barnacle in any reference book. Is this type of barnacle considered parasitic and detrimental to corals?

Many thanks

Camilla Floros
School of Botany and Zoology 
University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg
Email: FlorosC at

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