[Coral-List] Fwd: Mat tunicate problem?

Ellen McRae siwaban at yahoo.com
Wed Jan 16 21:30:59 EST 2008

Could this be the colonial mat anemone Palythoa caribaeorum? This is what it sounds most like to me.  They form mats 1 m or so across on nonliving rocks in shallow water. Not all individuals in a colony are open, and their short tentacles may not be visible. These look like series of pale lumps, each about a centimeter across, encrusting the substrate. The "spiders" sound like Arrow crabs.  Too many errant polychaetes to hazard a guess about the worms. To my knowledge this is not a pathology and should not be removed.  Any other opinions about this welcome!
  Best wishes--
  Ellen McRae
  Caye Caulker
  Belize, C.A. 

Alex Brylske <Brylske at aol.com> wrote:
  Received this letter from a reader, and would appreciate some insight 
from the group. Is he talking about some kind of colonial tunicate? 
Sorry, he didn't send any images.


Alex Brylske, Senior Editor

4314 SW 18th Place
Cape Coral, FL 33914
Phone: 239-471-7824
Cell: 954-701-1966
Fax: 281-664-9497
E-mail: brylske at aol.com
Website: www.dtmag.com

Begin forwarded message:

> From: Roger Dunton 
> Date: January 16, 2008 12:26:47 PM EST
> To: Alex Brylske 

> Subject: Mat tunicate problem?
> Alex,
> While leading a group in Cozumel this Christmas, I met a lovely 
> couple who pointed out what we believe may be a problem infestation 
> of the coral reefs. I am including their description to see if you 
> are aware of this and perhaps what might be done. They referred to 
> it as a “MAT TUNICATE”, but it was unlike any tunicates of which I 
> am aware.
> “First of all, we are not sure of the name, it was given to us by a 
> dive master in Belize on Turneffe Island. We have looked through 
> the name on internet but did not find anything close to it.
> Whatever its name, this algae is light grey - a bit greenish, and 
> when taken to surface it is actually a pale pink. It is thick and 
> feels rather soft to touch, like leather. It covers the coral like 
> a blanket. Actually when you look close, it seems to start with a 
> small drop, and you can see several drops like sprayed from above. 
> Each drop seems to develop into a blanket that covers the whole 
> coral head it started on, and grows along the stems of fans and 
> sponges until it covers it entirely.
> The dive master in Belize indicated that the algae should be 
> removed, or at least untucked from the coral head on the edges to 
> stop its growth. When you do this, it is sometimes easy and comes 
> in large pieces, sometimes it breaks into small crumbs. Below the 
> blanket, the coral is dead, and it seems there is only rock. There 
> are often thin spiders with long legs or long worms between the rock 
> and the algae. The algae is soft when taken off the coral, and when 
> it dries on the surface it becomes rigid.
> We have seen it a lot in Belize on the East side of Turneffe Island, 
> and we start to see it a lot in Cozumel, at about any depth. We 
> have not been able to observe a pattern, but I thought there was 
> maybe more of it in shallower waters. The weird thing is that when 
> you start looking for it, you see it a lot whereas if you are not 
> looking, you don't notice it so much.
> I would be interested in learning what it is, and what should be 
> done with it: remove it and dispose of it at surface, or just untuck 
> it, or leave it alone?
> Thank you for any light you might shed on this.”
> -Roger Dunton

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