[Coral-List] Palythoa overgrowing corals in Trinidad and elsewhere

Osmar Luiz Jr osmarjljr at terra.com.br
Tue Mar 11 09:26:48 EDT 2008

Dear Listers,

Very interesting this discussion on Palythoa, but I noted on previous 
messages that many people consider they an unpalatable plague that "infest" 
some shallow reefs.
There are some evidence that Palythoa have been used as a food source 
despite bearing the potent palytoxin.
Studies here in southeast Brazil noted that the striped butterflyfish 
Chaetodon striatus rely strongly on Palythoa for food. We also noted that 
hawksbill turtles are a compulsive Palythoa eater, judging by field 
observations and by the several scars and partially eaten colonies that the 
turtles left behind.
This habit of eaten Palythoa by hawksbill turtles is probably related with 
the paucity of large growing sponges here in SE Brazil.
Both papers are attached.

Osmar J. Luiz Jr
Dept. de Zoologia - IB
Universidade Estadual de Campinas.
Rua Charles Darwin, s/n
Campinas, SP, Brasil.
email: osmarluizjr at terra.com.br

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Thomas Goreau" <goreau at bestweb.net>
To: "coral-list coral-list" <coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>
Cc: "James Reimer" <jreimer at jamstec.go.jp>; "Dr. Dawn Phillip" 
<DPhillip at fsa.uwi.tt>; "João Gama Monteiro" <jmonteiro at uac.pt>; "Jennie 
Mallela" <JMallela at fsa.uwi.tt>; "Stanton Belford" 
<sbelford at martinmethodist.edu>
Sent: Monday, March 10, 2008 2:46 PM
Subject: [Coral-List] Palythoa overgrowing corals in Trinidad and elsewhere

> Palythoa overgrowth of corals is being studied in Toco and Salybia,
> Trinidad, by a research group at the University of the West Indies at
> St. Augustine including Dawn Philip, Jennnie Mallela, Lee Ann Beddoe,
> and Stanton Belford. Our observations, compared to earlier work by
> other Trinidadian researchers, shows that Palythoa is clearly
> overgrowing corals and expanding over the reef flat.
> We see the same thing happening on a large scale in Broward County
> Florida, where Dan Clark and I just photographed this last week, and
> where large old corals are being overgrown. The same Palythoa
> dominance is common in southern Brazil, for example from Cabo Frio
> and Arraial do Cabo southwestwards. Palythoa mats dominate large
> areas of the reefs of Cabo Verde, and photos sent to me last week by
> Joao Gama Monteiro show it is even overgrowing Millepora there.
> Palythoa is a pest in that it is toxic so it provides neither food
> nor shelter, and it's spread at the expense of corals in many places
> is a serious concern, but the ecological factors allowing it to
> spread are not known. One possibility is that food supplies that
> Palythoa is a more effective consumer of than corals are increasing,
> but little is known of the feeding habits of Palythoa, according
> James Reimer, a zoanthid expert I specifically asked about this a few
> years ago.
> Trinidad is an interesting exception to the general rule in that the
> other places where Palythoa is dominant are near the extreme cold
> limit of corals, which Trinidad is not, however it is near the
> extreme sedimentation limit of corals due to the influence of the
> Orinoco River.
> Thomas J. Goreau, PhD
> President
> Global Coral Reef Alliance
> 37 Pleasant Street, Cambridge MA 02139
> 617-864-4226
> goreau at bestweb.net
> http://www.globalcoral.org
> Message: 5
> Date: Fri, 7 Mar 2008 16:44:43 -0400
> From: "Jan-Willem van Bochove" <jvb at coralcayconservation.com>
> Subject: [Coral-List] Zoanthid (Paltythoa caribaeorum) overgrowth of
> corals
> To: <coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>
> Message-ID: <20080307205035.40516179F5 at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"
> Hello,
> I've noticed that P. caribaeorum, a colonial zoanthid which forms
> extensive
> mats, is overtopping and smothering a large variety of scleractinian
> corals
> in shallow reef environments in Tobago.
> P. caribaeorum is an aggressive, fast growing and toxic zoanthid
> which seems
> to stop at nothing and I have yet to see any significant predation on
> the
> species. In a small, sheltered bay where most of our observations
> were made,
> it forms the dominant substrate with over 75% cover in the shallows
> (2-5m).
> We have also seen it overtopping massive corals in deeper waters.
> I was wondering if anyone has or knows of any recent research done on
> the
> zoanthid or has noticed its abundance elsewhere on such a scale.
> Other than
> a paper presented at the ICRS of 1981 in Manila by Suchanek and Green, I
> have not come across any literature dealing with inter-specific
> competition
> with corals.
> Images of the zoanthid overgrowing corals can be found on -
> http://www.flickr.com/photos/23314528@N03/
> Any feedback is appreciated.
> Regards,
> Jan
> Reference -
> Suchanek T.H., and Green, D.J., 1981. Interspecific Competition Between
> Palythoa Caribaeorum and Other Sessile Invertebrates on St.Croix
> Reefs, U.S.
> Virgin Islands. Proceedings of the Fourth International Coral Reef
> Symposium, Manila, Vol. 2.
> -- 
> Jan-Willem van Bochove MSc
> Chief Technical Advisor
> Coral Cay Conservation Ltd
> Elizabeth House, 39 York Road, London, SE1 7NJ, United Kingdom
> Tel: +44 (0)20 7620 1411 (switch board)
> Fax: +44 (0)20 7921 0469
> email: jvb at coralcayconservation.com
> www.coralcay.org
> skype: jhvanbochove
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