[Coral-List] tunicates

Martin Moe martin_moe at yahoo.com
Thu Jan 17 10:17:06 EST 2008

I've been following the tunicate thread with great interest.
Seems that what's needed to keep them under control would be an organism that
actually cleans the rock, something that can scrape and feed on just about anything
that is attached to the upper levels of the substrate, something that even if
it couldn't actually consume the organism itself might be able to keep its
growth in check and keep it from invading open substrates. Too bad that
there isn't anything like that on the western Atlantic reefs today, at least
not in numbers adequate to do this housekeeping over extensive areas. But wait,
maybe Diadema could do that job, as well keep algae growth under control, if
they were abundant once again.  Diadema may
or may not have had an impact on tunicate growth when they were abundant, I have not seen any studies on that, but they
were so critical in shaping and maintaining the ecology of these reefs over
great expanses of time that their loss has implications for the reefs far
beyond just algae control. There could be an interesting graduate thesis in such a study. Too be sure, return of Diadema wouldn’t solve all
the problems facing these reefs in these perilous times, but if Diadema could
be returned to the reefs, they would be an essential element to whatever ecological restoration
of our coral reefs is possible.

Martin Moe

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