Coral disease

Osha Gray Davidson osha at
Wed Jun 27 10:00:02 EDT 2001

For anyone interested in coral diseases and/or bleaching, there's an 
important article by Richard Aronson and William Precht in the current 
issue of "Palaios" at

Many of you probably read the article by Aronson, et al. in "Nature," 
"Coral bleach-out in Belize," (4 May 2000, p. 36). That article documented 
the mass die-off of Agaricia tenuifolia, due to bleaching at Channel Cay 
reef, Belize. The story was widely circulated in the mainstream press.

But the current "Palaios" article documents the set-up for the bleaching 
die-off: the mass mortality of the dominant reef-builder at Channel Cay, 
Acropora cervicornis, due to disease in the 1980s. Paleoecologists 
Arononson and Precht determined that that event (which was missed by the 
popular press), was unprecedented in the modern era (for at least 3,000 years).

Not to take away at all from the importance of bleaching, but the current 
"Palaios" article shows that at least in some cases mass mortalities due to 
bleaching may be the final step in a process that begins with coral disease.

The essential question then becomes: what's causing the emerging diseases 
to extirpate long-standing dominant coral colonies, leaving them open to 
replacement by other, possibly less-hardy, corals?

Disease may not be as "sexy" as "global warming" to the mainstream press, 
but it may be at least as important in determining the fate of coral reefs.

Osha Gray Davidson

 From May 19-July 31 I'll be at:

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Phone: 602-840-0998

After those dates I can be reached at:

Osha Gray Davidson          Home page:
14 S. Governor St.          Phone: 319-338-4778
Iowa City, IA 52240         E-Mail: osha at

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