[Coral-List] What to call white plague-like phenomena and how to tell what bugs are really in it?
goreau at bestweb.net
Tue Jul 4 21:21:33 EDT 2006
>> Subject: What to call white plague-like phenomena and how to tell
>> what bugs are really in it?
>> Dear colleagues,
>> This is just a quick note in response to the thread below before
>> leaving in the morning and being out of reach in the field again.
>> In the last few years I see these white plague-like phenomena
>> greatly increasing everyplace i go, Caribbean, Indian Ocean,
>> Pacific, Southeast Asia, and more and more mixed with clear
>> indications of other diseases, such as black band or white band.
>> There seems to be a real question as to whether Aurantimonas is
>> the sole cause, as opposed to a secondary opportunist or member of
>> a consortium, and so it seems far too restrictive to limit the
>> term to only those that have been shown to have Aurantimonas in
>> them. The term white plague is originally a field descriptive term
>> with good meaning, while Aurantimoniasis should be restricted to
>> those cases where the microbe has been proven present. Field
>> researchers need a field description that we can use without
>> having the facilities and the money for microbiology, and it seems
>> to me that white syndrome is far too vague, and anyway is a junior
>> synonym. Eric is right that many people are misdiagnosing this.
>> I'm just back from reefs that had the white plague like syndrome,
>> often coupled with other coral diseases, yellow band, bleaching,
>> crown of thorns, and drupella, making it often hard to be sure
>> which was which. However there were many cases that could not be
>> attributed to any other factors but WP-like on careful
>> examination. It is clear that this won't be resolved by even a
>> coordinated reporting network, as the question of what people are
>> really seeing, versus what they assume they are seeing will
>> bedevil the interpretation just like the low level reef monitoring
>> programs reporting from all over the world, whose "data" no
>> serious coral disease researcher trusts. What is needed is
>> funding for a good lab that can construct the 16S rRNA libraries
>> of samples that anyone can send so we can see what is really in
>> them. It is certain we will find much more complex microbial
>> communities involved rather than single putative pathogens, and
>> only lots of data will start to reveal their patterns. Without
>> this analytical capability, these diseases will continue to spread
>> far faster than we can agree on what to call them, and these
>> nomenclature discussions will be more fiddling while Rome burns.
>> Like so much else in this field.
>> Best wishes,
>> Thomas J. Goreau, PhD
>> Global Coral Reef Alliance
>> 37 Pleasant Street, Cambridge MA 02139
>> goreau at bestweb.net
>> On Jul 4, 2006, at 7:52 PM, Eric Borneman wrote:
>>> Hi James:
>>> On Jul 4, 2006, at 5:37 PM, James M. Cervino (Marine Biologist)
>>>> Dear Eric,
>>>> How do you know that Aurantimonas is the smoking gun that
>>>> determines WP2?
>>>> As you stated in your e-mail that WP2 is a tricky one and we all
>>>> know too well that this may or may not be the bug anyway.
>>> LOL. I couldn't agree more. But, let's just say, for the sake of
>>> argument, that those original corals sampled in one location at
>>> one time originally reported were valid since they are widely
>>> accepted as being so, and let's say that those samples that have
>>> been sent since then were also positively identified as have
>>> lesions with Aurantimonas and that it is the causative agent of
>>> WPII. I mean, that's what is currently accepted. I won't comment
>>> further (as I am sure you know) and as it appears we are on the
>>> same page here. I am not going so far as to publicly post what I
>>> think about that until I or someone else has good evidence
>>> published to the contrary (and I haven't gotten to those samples
>>> yet - or the "white pox" samples sitting on my lab bench.
>>>> Therefore, you too need to be a little careful about what you
>>>> are saying as well. You did not have to be so harsh during your
>>>> diatribe of reasons as to what they are seeing may or may not be
>>>> WP2. You are hanging on a few pickey(choice) words here that may
>>>> cause people to be gun shy that would warrant them to be able to
>>>> report syndromes or diseases from the locations they are working
>>> It wasn't meant to be harsh, just realistic. Yes, of course I am
>>> concerned that people report outbreaks of plague. I just
>>> finished assessing one such "outbreak" with a group who swore up
>>> and down it was plague...maybe a "cross between plague I and II"-
>>> even though no one knows what plague I was and probably never
>>> will. Turns out, the "outbreak" was a transient phenomenon,
>>> probably brought about by a flood plume from Rita....we don't
>>> know since a year later no one has finished analyzing water or
>>> sediment samples and histology has disappeared into the void.
>>> But, three groups....one noting a correlation with high snail
>>> abundance (but the snails were hermits, not even Coralliophila -
>>> oops...even that was a wrong identification), another suggesting
>>> fireworms as a vector - but oops, no consistent or even common
>>> fireworms on corals with lesions even at night but rather on
>>> corals, in general and if present at all, and another that used
>>> the WP probe and "there were problems with the probe." Yes, mucus
>>> swabs were taken, fireworms sampled, sediment samples taken,
>>> colonies tagged, high incidence, all manner of proposed
>>> etiological agents....and three months later it was all but gone,
>>> coral largely recovered, and no characteristic signs other than
>>> tissue loss. Some active lesions yet, but largely gone and I
>>> doubt we will ever know what it was. If it occurs again, it might
>>> be the same or diffierent. Fish bites were recorded by "experts"
>>> as diseased colonies. Bleaching was reported by "experts" as
>>> tissue loss. It happens all the time.
>>> I think people should report disease or areas where there is
>>> something going on, but I do not think it should be named because
>>> of the consequences associated with reporting something that may
>>> not be that event. You of all people should know that with the
>>> Rapid Wasting Syndrome, James - no offense. Same thing with
>>> ridge mortality disease....its damselfish. Period. Maybe someday
>>> a disease will show up that only affects the ridges of Diploria,
>>> but its not a disease, its the damselfish equivalent of Sparsioma
>>> repetitive focused biting. What about damselfish nests and
>>> fireworms swallowing cervicornis? That can look like a lot like
>>> disease and is often reported as disease. But it isn't.
>>>> Some posters are marine scientists and some are not as they may
>>>> be just avid SCUBA divers wanting to help or become more
>>>> knowledgeable about what they are seeing by getting feedback
>>>> from us. You too have been guilty of the same comments when
>>>> discussing photos in the past on the list server and at public
>>> I'm sorry but for as long as I can recall I have been using and
>>> believed in using the terms white syndrome, and only use the
>>> named diseases as they are currently accepted in the literature
>>> even when I think the jury is still out out of respect to those
>>> who have done the work. I don't even mark down white disease
>>> names on transects anymore unless I am sure what they are but
>>> rather describe the lesions. I even think the distinction of
>>> white band on Acroporids is wrong, because lo and behold, there
>>> was white syndrome on the lone palmata colony at E Flower
>>> Gardens, and according to the literature, white band only affects
>>> Acropora and WP other species....and here we were with virtually
>>> every coral species having some active mostly marginal tissue
>>> loss across the site, and we are going to assume that the sole
>>> colony of palmata had something different from every other
>>> affected coral around it because the literature says WBD affects
>>> Acropora and WP doesn't?
>>>> And dont worry, there will be no herds of people making mistakes
>>>> as they pertain to "white syndromes" as you may or may not have
>>>> frightened them away.
>>> There already are herds of people making mistakes. A grad
>>> student reported a 20% incidence of black band at the Flower
>>> Garden Banks when for all practical purposes it doesn't exist out
>>> there. I don't even know what he was seeing that he thought was
>>> BBD. I see people calling patchy bleaching of Montastraea that
>>> is likely different bleaching thresholds of different zoox clades
>>> as YBD. "Outbreaks" of white plague are being reported every year
>>> without any real evidence that it is plague. The global coral
>>> disease database is filled with them. Andy was recently
>>> discussing that very fact....that the "ReefCheck" like entries
>>> are showing up completely misidentifying diseases.
>>>> Here is a helpful response that may bring out the best in
>>>> people; Dear Melissaand etichscuba, would it be possible to send
>>>> a sample that can go with that photo? Also, since funds are
>>>> limited maybe you would be able to obtain a few dollars for PCR
>>>> and sequencing?? This may help us disease pathologists get the
>>>> answer you may be looking for. Take care......
>>> There is already a protocol in place for registration of diseased
>>> samples through the IRCP and Esther described it in her previous
>>> post. Also, obtaining samples as you know requires money, time,
>>> effort and may be in vain. The diagnostics do not exist for most
>>> of the white syndromes, so what would you be using PCR and
>>> sequencing for? A bug hunt? Just going to run a BLAST of the
>>> total flora of the coral and the lesions? What about abiotic
>>> factors? What about proper sampling protocols? Water and
>>> sediment samples? Follow up monitoring of colonies, tagging and
>>> marking of colonies? What about presample agar embedding?
>>> Everyone going to do all that, too, to make sure the sample is
>>> even usable?
>>> Also, I am not sure that divers are going to be able to get
>>> permission from CITES authorities or managers to sample and send
>>> corals with unknown pathologies. Reports of disease like
>>> conditions such as what Melissa and etichscuba are doing are very
>>> valuable and I am a strong proponent of using multiple
>>> disciplines as monitors for real outbreaks. But, I do not think
>>> that naming the disease with field observations unless it is a
>>> very apparent pathology is a good idea.
>>>> All they wanted to know was what the picture was telling us
>>>> "experts" .....thats all! Ah...Back to the Lobster feast on MBL
>>>> street, its getting too hot in here.
>>> All I wanted to do was point out that when Melissa has photos of
>>> white plague and someone else says they saw the same thing that
>>> both could be wrong. You and I both know we cannot say what
>>> those conditions are based on the photos or a description of "I
>>> saw the same thing." I am not sure why you have any issue with
>>> it at all. They saw recently denuded tissue that may or may not
>>> represent a disease, known or unknown. That reporting is
>>> valuable, make no mistake. But so is perspective and experience.
>>> Eric Borneman
>>> Dept. of Biology and Biochemistry
>>> University of Houston
>>> Science and Research Bldg. II
>>> 4800 Calhoun Rd.
>>> Houston, TX 77204-5001
>>> eborneman at uh.edu
>> Hello, all,
>> Very amusing, James. Let's not become caustic about this. If it
>> were of any use, OK. But we really are whipping dying horses.
>> I have a problem with looking at the background in photos, behind
>> that pretty fish, and have recently, say five years, seen only
>> devastation in Florida Keys; Grand Cayman; Saba /Navidad Banks;
>> San Salvidore, Bahamas.
>> Coral in the Caribbean basin, in my humble observation, is gone,
>> shot, kaput.
>> I am a bit flattered to be getting "Mike Risk" quality attention
>> for my posts.
>> I only strive to be accurate, not to stir up spatz.
>> Cheers, and keep cool. Looks like a hot and hotter summer/fall
>> "James M. Cervino (Marine Biologist)" <cnidaria at earthlink.net> wrote:
>> Dear Eric,
>> How do you know that Aurantimonas is the smoking gun that
>> determines WP2? As you stated in your e-mail that WP2 is a tricky
>> one and we all know too well that this may or may not be the bug
>> anyway. Therefore, you too need to be a little careful about what
>> you are saying as well. You did not have to be so harsh during
>> your diatribe of reasons as to what they are seeing may or may not
>> be WP2. You are hanging on a few pickey(choice) words here that
>> may cause people to be gun shy that would warrant them to be able
>> to report syndromes or diseases from the locations they are
>> working in. Some posters are marine scientists and some are not as
>> they may be just avid SCUBA divers wanting to help or become more
>> knowledgeable about what they are seeing by getting feedback from
>> us. You too have been guilty of the same comments when discussing
>> photos in the past on the list server and at public meetings. And
>> dont worry, there will be no herds of people making mistakes as
>> they pertain to "white syndromes" as you may or may not have
>> frightened them away.
>> Here is a helpful response that may bring out the best in people;
>> Dear Melissaand etichscuba, would it be possible to send a sample
>> that can go with that photo? Also, since funds are limited maybe
>> you would be able to obtain a few dollars for PCR and sequencing??
>> This may help us disease pathologists get the answer you may be
>> looking for. Take care......
>> All they wanted to know was what the picture was telling us
>> "experts" .....thats all! Ah...Back to the Lobster feast on MBL
>> street, its getting too hot in here.
>> -----Original Message-----
>> >From: Eric Borneman
>> >Sent: Jul 4, 2006 10:04 AM
>> >To: Melissa Keyes
>> >Cc: Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
>> >Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Needed: Description of White Plagues
>> One and Two
>> >Dear Melissa and Etichscuba
>> >All you can say in the field is that you have observed corals with
>> >signs of a white plague-like condition or a white syndrome. The
>> >etiology is not well enough understood when then signs of disease
>> >simply a loss of tissue, generally from the margins or base of a
>> >colony. To even call it WPII would require that you collect samples
>> >and determine if there are Aurantimonas bacteria associated with the
>> >I have slide upon slide of coral diseases that look like white
>> >plague, type I, II, III, white syndromes, white band types i and II,
>> >white pox, white this, white that. Basically the coral tissue is
>> >dying, is bleached and dying, or has been eaten. There are many
>> >possible reasons and the same or similar gross or field-observable
>> >signs occur in the Atlantic, the Indo-Pacific, the Red Sea. The
>> >etiology is barely known (and with questionable data across time and
>> >space) for any of them, and now we know that even carbon can cause
>> >similar signs (Kuntz et al 2005).
>> >Etichscuba said he saw the exact same thing. Snails, ciliates,
>> >flatwoms, Hermodice, nudibranchs, parrotfish, bacteria, viruses,
>> >sedimentation, abrasion, allelopathy, fish poop, environmental
>> >stressors - all can cause the same or "too close to call" signs of
>> >white disease in the field. A lot of field people still can't tell
>> >the difference between a partially bleached coral, fish bites and
>> >Before everyone who sees tissue loss on a coral begins calling it
>> >white plague, the diagnostics must confirm the gross signs of
>> >disease. Its like having a headache or a fever or diarrhea...same
>> >symptoms in humans of many potential disease agents or maybe no
>> >disease agent at all.
>> >There are characteristic diseases - like black band disease. White
>> >syndromes are not so clear cut and I wouldn't even say that the
>> >complete etiology of black band is written in stone although it is
>> >understood much better. There is even a different disease in the
>> >Pacific that can look a lot like black band disease but isn't and is
>> >caused by a totally different agent, Halofolliculina corallasia.
>> >I think its important to keep this in mind when making field
>> >observations and assigning disease names to lesions.
>> >Eric Borneman
>> >Dept. of Biology and Biochemistry
>> >University of Houston
>> >Science and Research Bldg. II
>> >4800 Calhoun Rd.
>> >Houston, TX 77204-5001
>> >eborneman at uh.edu
>> >On Jul 3, 2006, at 11:19 AM, Melissa Keyes wrote:
>> >> Hello, Listers,
>> >> I would greatly appreciate a description of the visual
>> >> differences between the two White Plagues.
>> >> Also, do they differ in rate of growth, as well as rate of
>> >> colonization of algae on the freshly dead coral?
>> >> Cheers,
>> >> Melissa Keyes
>> >> St Croix, USVI, Caribbean Sea
>> >> ---------------------------------
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> Thomas J. Goreau, PhD
> Global Coral Reef Alliance
> 37 Pleasant Street, Cambridge MA 02139
> goreau at bestweb.net
Thomas J. Goreau, PhD
Global Coral Reef Alliance
37 Pleasant Street, Cambridge MA 02139
goreau at bestweb.net
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