[Coral-List] Palm Beach barrel sponge disease update

Billy Causey billy.causey at noaa.gov
Mon May 7 17:40:24 EDT 2012

Ed ... thank you for this observation.  I am inserting a short
paragraph that I included in Clive Wilkinson's publication "Status of
Caribbean Coral Reefs After Bleaching and Hurricanes in 2005."   In
the late 1970's in the Florida Keys we observed this exact phenomenon
along the outer reef tract, from Big Pine Key down to the Looe Key
Reef area.  This is the paragraph I submitted regarding the barrel
sponges and the massive die-off.

Chapter 6, Page 61.
1979: The first sign of stress on the outer coral reefs was a die-off
of sponges in June-July 1979, with a massive loss of the barrel
sponge, Xestospongia muta on Big Pine Shoal, south of Big Pine Key.
Hundreds of large sponges disintegrated during a month when
extraordinarily warm waters flowed from the Gulf of Mexico across the

I noted a post last week where there was an observation of loss of
color in the sponges.  We noted that too in 1979, but the sponges
began disintegrating rather quickly.  Soon, I learned to spot where
sponges had been attached due to the pile of clean coral rubble and
disintegrated sponge left behind.

Again, thanks for sharing your observations.  Billy

On Mon, May 7, 2012 at 9:20 AM, Reef Rescue <etichscuba at aol.com> wrote:
> Went diving yesterday and returned to one of the previous locations to monitor the status of the barrel sponges. Ones that were yellowed on 4/27 are now disintegrating. It appears some azure vase sponges may also be impacted. Video link:
> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eXtV4zrRmRU
> Did another dive at a new location several miles to the south in Delray Beach. Sponges same or worse, perhaps 30% impacted with many disintegrating.
> Ed Tichenor
> Palm Beach County Reef Rescue
> www.reef-rescue.org
> 561 699-8559
> Original report
> On April 27, 2012, Reef Rescue divers completed two dives on Gulf Stream Reef, Boynton Beach, FL. First dive from 26 30.300 N, 80 02.065 W to 26 30.610 N, 80 02.015 W. Observed 22 barrel sponges with pigment loss. Second dive from 26 30 .755 N, 80 01.960 to 26 31.077 N, 80 01.969 W. Observed 29 barrel sponges with pigment loss. Video from the first dive is posted at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rz6Q7wt7Cx8&feature=youtu.be
> On April 11, 2012, Reef Rescue performed dives in the same area and observed no barrel sponges with pigment loss.
> On April 27, Reef Rescue received reports from divers to the north at Horseshoe Reef, Lake Worth and Paul’s Reef, Palm Beach that barrel sponges were “bleaching”. As in Boynton no pigment loss was observed at those locations two weeks prior.
> Over the last 15 – 20 years of diving in Boynton and Palm Beach County we have observed occasional instances of barrel sponge “bleaching” and disintegration. However, never have we observed an event of this magnitude. A rough estimation is that 10 -15% of the barrel sponges observed on 4/27 were impacted.
> Ed Tichenor
> Palm Beach County Reef Rescue
> www.reef-rescue.org
> 561 699-8559
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Billy D. Causey, Ph.D.
Regional Director
Southeast Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Region
NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries
33 East Quay Road
Key West, Florida 33040

Office:  305 809 4670 (ex 234)
Mobile: 305 395 0150
Fax:     305 293 5011
Email:  Billy.Causey at noaa.gov

Will Our Grandchildren Remember Us For What We Conserved and Protected
or For What We Let Slip Away?

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