Doomed? thread

Osha Gray Davidson osha at
Thu Nov 1 13:59:26 EST 2001

Now that Jim Hendee has posted the entire "Doomed?" thread (thanks Monika 
Gurnee!), I had a chance to read it through as whole, rather than day by 
day, as it came. One thing that struck me was, amid the variety of reef 
problems mentioned, the absence of "disease" as an issue. This seems a 
particularly egregious omission given a number of factors. (I know some 
will argue that disease is a response to other problems, and in some cases 
that's no doubt true, but the links in other cases are not understood and 
coral diseases as an issue really should be included in any discussion of 
the fate of reefs.)

White Band Disease (WBD) was the main cause of the mass mortality of 
Acropora, previously the primary reef-building corals of the Caribbean. 
(Aronson and Precht, "Evolutionary paleocology of Caribbean coral reefs," 
in Evolutionary Paleoecology, Allmon and Bottjer, eds., 2001.)

Then there's the mass mortality of sea fans caused by the bacterium 
Aspergillus sp. reported by Smith, Harvel and Kim (sorry, I don't have the 
complete cite handy).

Disease also plays a role in coral decline even when the diseases aren't 
attacking corals per se. The Diadema die-off in the early 1980s (killing 
95% of D. antillarum in the western Caribbean) likely contributed to algal 
overgrowth in many areas (H. Lessios, 1988), since that sea urchin was a 
major herbivore throughout the area. That epizootic was likely a case of 
"pathogen pollution," in which pathogens are transported (in this case in 
bilge water from a ship coming through the Panama canal) by humans. For 
more on pathogen pollution see Peter Daszak, et al. in Science, 21 January 
2000, pp. 443-49.

And on that note, I'll climb down from my "disease" soapbox.


Osha Gray Davidson          Home page:
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Iowa City, IA 52240         E-Mail: osha at

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