[Coral-List] Culcita attack on reef

William Allison beliamall at dhivehinet.net.mv
Tue Jan 31 11:11:31 EST 2006

Dear Sandrine,

Culcita eat many things including sponge, fleshy and coraline algae,
ascidians, and small corals (e.g., Glynn & Krupp, 1986; Thomassin, 1976;
personal observations). I have even observed them foraging for and consuming
sea urchins. An observer's perception of the proportions of food types
consumed can easily be biased because the skeletons of the consumed corals
are highly visible whereas there is little to indicate that other sessile
benthos have been eaten. In your case some of the mortality might be caused
by the trauma of transplantation but it is likely the seastars are causing
some mortality. Go out at night and see what they are eating. Quite likely
they are homing in on organics released by damaged corals and this is
producing the aggregation. It would be premature to demonize Culcita for
killing corals, because (1) in general the corals they consume may be
balanced by the space they clear for coral settlement, and (2) the
particular situation you have created seems to be causing the observed
effect. Perhaps the notion of transplanting corals (and safe environments)
needs re-thinking.

Glynn, P.W. & Krupp, D.A., 1986. JEMBE 96;75-96.
Thomassin, B.A., 1976. Helgolander wiss. Meeresunters 28:1;51-56.



> From: sandrine job <pulpito2000 at yahoo.fr>
> Date: Tue, 31 Jan 2006 06:08:52 +0100 (CET)
> To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> Subject: [Coral-List] Culcita attack on reef
> Dear Coral List,
> I have conducted a reef restoration project that involved the re-location of
> hundreds of coral colonies into a safe environment, presently 3 different
> sites, in New Caledonia. On one of the site, we found a decent number of
> cushion seastar Culcita prior to restoration (5 to 10/500m²), but after
> restoration efforts their number increased dramatically! and several
> transplanted colonies were found dead (probably smothered by the sea star,
> or...?) on the restoration site. We tried to remove them once and put them
> away from our site, 2 days later they doubled! We counted up to 25 seastar on
> 500m²...
> If anyone can help me understand what's going on between corals and Culcita...
> If you heard about Culcita's stories, or know any papers related to their
> ecology, feeding habits, or interaction in the reef ecosystem, it would be
> appreciated. 
> Cheers,
> Sandrine JOB
> Environmental Company
> New Caledonia
> Drew Harvell <cdh5 at cornell.edu> a écrit :
> Dear Annie and Caroline: It is Biareum asbestinum, as Julian
> identified. We worked on the chemistry with Bill Fenical for many
> years, and it is not surprising that it is toxic enough to kill a
> dog. Its more surprising that the dog ate enough of what must have
> tasted very horrible to get a lethal dose. This species has high
> levels of chlorinated diterpenes, in addition to unidentified small
> proteins that might be in it. This species also has compounds in it
> that can trigger contact dermatitus and even respiratory issues for
> people who work with chemical extracts and dried samples of it
> regularly.
> Below are some of our papers with briareum; the most recent of these
> are available on my website.
> Regards, Drew
> Harvell, C. D., W. Fenical, V. Roussis, J. L. Ruesink, C. C. Griggs,
> C. H. Greene. 1993. Local and geographic variation in the defensive
> chemistry of a West Indian gorgonian coral (Briareum asbestinum).
> Marine Ecology Progress Series 93:165-173.
> Harvell C. D., J. West, and C. C. Griggs. 1997. Chemical defense of
> embryos and larvae of a West Indian gorgonian coral, Briareum
> asbestinum. Invertebrate Reproduction and Development 30:239-246.
> Jensen, P. R., C. D. Harvell, K. Wirtz, and W. Fenical. 1996. The
> incidence of anti-microbial activity among Caribbean gorgonians.
> Marine Biology 125:411-420.
> Kim, K., P. D. Kim, A. P. Alker and C. D. Harvell. 2000. Antifungal
> properties of gorgonian corals. Marine Biology 137: 393-401
>> Hi Coral listers,
>> Can anyone help determine the species of coral and whether it is
>> toxic please? There is a link to the photo here:
>> http://www.bren.ucsb.edu/~hcoleman/coral.htm
>> Annie J. Yau
>> Bren School of Environmental Science and Management University of
>> California, Santa Barbara CA 93106-5131
>> Office: Bren Hall 1306, (805) 893-5054
>> Email: ayau at bren.ucsb.edu
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: Caroline Donaldson [mailto:cwd at apcc.aspca.org]
>> This is a picture of a coral a dog ate that developed progressive
>> neurologic signs about 2 hours after the ingestion. the dog was
>> ultimately euthanized because the he was not breathing on his own
>> and the owners could not afford emergency care. I found some
>> literature about corals that can have neurotoxins specifically
>> lophotoxins, I was wondering if it is possible that this could be
>> one of those corals.
>> This particular coral was found on the beach in Jamaica and
>> apparently is a leather consistency. Any ideas about what it might
>> be would be helpful and if it is possible it could be a species that
>> could be toxic as well as any information about coral toxins that
>> you may have would be useful. Please feel free to forward the
>> picture on if you know someone who might also be of assistance.
>>> Thanks
>> Caroline
>> Caroline W. Donaldson, DVM
>> ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center
>> An Allied Agency of the University of Illinois
>> http://www.apcc.aspca.org 1-888-4-ANI-HELP
>> _______________________________________________
>> Coral-List mailing list
>> Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
>> http://coral.aoml.noaa.gov/mailman/listinfo/coral-list
> -- 
> Drew Harvell
> Professor
> Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
> E- 321 Corson Hall
> Cornell University
> Ithaca, NY 14853
> VOICE: 607-254-4274 FAX: 607-255-8088 email:cdh5 at cornell.edu
> http://www.eeb.cornell.edu/harvell/harvell.html
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