[Coral-List] BP Crude Oil Found in Heterotrophic Corals

Douglas Fenner douglasfennertassi at gmail.com
Fri Apr 12 19:28:26 EDT 2013

      Thanks, Quention.  Folks need to keep in mind that there are now TWO
species of Tubastraea on Gulf oil platforms.  Tubastraea coccinea which is
bright orange-red and forms lumps or cushions, got to them first and is the
one that Quenton is describing has expanded so rapidly.  It is the one that
had first been reported in the Caribbean long after all other coral genera
were discovered there, and which subsequent reports fit a pattern of spread
through the Caribbean, then spread into the Gulf of Mexico on oil
platforms, and last to Florida on shipwrecks.  It was likely introduced
from the Pacific or possibly west Africa into the Caribbean, first
appearing at Aruba and Puerto Rico.
     The second species is Tubastraea micranthus, which forms bushes or
trees, and which is a very dark green.  Very different looking from T.
coccinea, easy to tell the difference.  It had to be introduced from the
Indo-Pacific, it is not known from anywhere in the Atlantic.  It was
reported in a paper relatively recently by Paul Sammarco and his
colleagues, from only one platform.  I strongly favor the Sammarco paper's
suggestion of removing the T. micranthus quickly, before it starts
spreading to other oil platforms and becomes so well established that it is
not practical to remove, like the T. coccinea.
     To me, the words "introduced" and "invasive" are best used in a sense
similar to their common meanings in English.  "Introduced" species are
species that have been moved into a place it wasn't present previously,
intentionally or unintentionally, by humans.  For the term "introduced" it
doesn't matter whether the species expands or does any damage.  The word
"invasive" means that it invades new areas where it wasn't before, so it
expands it's geographic range.  Typically, many marine species are
introduced into harbors by ships, and came from other harbors where they
got on the ships.  Many of those are adapted to living in harbors, so they
don't expand outside the harbors where they are introduced into.  But a few
do, and spread widely.  Several kinds of reef fish have been introduced by
people, from the Indo-Pacific into western Atlantic waters, primarily
Florida it would appear but perhaps up the US east coast as well.  Some
have not expanded greatly, but lionfish have.  So lionfish are not only
introduced, but also invasive.  A fish that was introduced but did not
expand would only be introduced.  A third meaning doesn't seem to be well
captured by most of our present terminology, and that is a species that has
big effects on the habitats that they were introduced into or invaded.
Looks like lionfish are likely to do that as well, reports are starting to
come in.  Some people take the meaning of "invasive" to be that it does bad
things to ecosystems, and it may well be that many invasive species do, but
it is a separate thing from the expansion of the range.  The fact that a
species invades other areas may go along with their becoming abundant, and
an abundant species seems likely to have bigger effects on the ecosystem
they expanded into.  I favor not using "invasive" to mean damaging, since
it is possible for an invasive species to not be damaging.  I think it is
always good to use separate terms for separate effects, even if they often
go together.  That helps us be clear what we are talking about.
      It is even possible for an invasive species to not have been
introduced, though most are.  An example is the cattle egret, which flew
from Africa to South America, and then expanded northward and invaded North
America.  Earlier they expanded into southern Africa, they now have
expanded into parts of Europe and into Australia.  Cattle egrets are an
invasive species in the Americas, but they are not introduced.  I don't
know how big an effect they have on ecosystems.  They expanded mainly
because humans introduced cattle into new parts of the world, and cattle
egrets thrive where there are cattle.  Wikipedia has an informative article
on them.
      I suppose the word "exotic" could be used for any species that came
from somewhere else, whether introduced by people or coming naturally like
the cattle egret.  Other people have reported that people do a lot of
arguing about the terminology for these things.
      Although Tubastraea coccinea appears to have expanded in the
Caribbean, and certainly expanded on oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico,
there isn't a lot of literature describing major effects on the ecosystems
they invaded, to my knowledge.  However, Tubastraea coccinea and a third
species, Tubastraea taguensis have been introduced by oil equipment into
Brazil, and there are now papers documenting effects on ecosystems there.
So in Brazil, there is documentation that T. coccinea and T. taguensis were
introduced, are invasive, and are affecting the ecosystem.
      Cheers,  Doug

Mangelli, T.S., Creed, J.C.  2012.  Comparative analysis of the invasive
coral Tubastraea spp.(Cnidaria, Anthozoa) on natural and artificial
substrates at Ilha Grande, Rio de Janerio, Brazil.  Iheringia. Serie
Zoologia 102

Sammarco, P.W., Porter, S.A., Cairns, S.D.  2010.  A new coral species
introduced into the Atlantic Ocean-Tubastraea micranthus (Ehrenberg,
1834)(Cnidaria, Anthozoa, Scleractinia): an invasive threat.  Aquatic
Invasions 5: 131-140.

Fenner, D. and Banks, K.  2004.  Orange cup coral, *Tubastraea coccinea*,
invades Florida and the Flower Garden Banks, Northwestern Gulf of Mexico.
Coral Reefs 23: 505-507.

Fenner, D. 2001.  Biogeography of three Caribbean corals (Scleractinia); *
Tubastraea** coccinea* invades the Gulf of Mexico.  Bulletin of Marine
Science 69: 1175-1189.

On Sat, Apr 13, 2013 at 1:25 AM, Quenton <qdokken at gulfmex.org> wrote:

> I made my first dive on a platform structure in the Gulf of Mexico in 1969,
> but did not encounter Tubastraea until the mid-1990's on a deepwater
> platform.  Its spread since then has been amazing.  In October 2012 we
> spent
> a week diving artificial reef structures (i.e. platforms) on a filming
> project and all supported expansive growths of Tubastraea.
> Q
> Quenton Dokken, Ph.D.
> President/CEO
> Gulf of Mexico Foundation, Inc.
> 361-882-3939 office
> 361-442-6064 cell
> qdokken at gulfmex.org
> Office:
> 3833 South Staples
> Suite S214
> Corpus Christi, TX 78411
> Mail:
> PMB 51
> 5403 Everhart Rd.
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> www.gulfmex.org
> -----Original Message-----
> From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> [mailto:coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov] On Behalf Of Douglas
> Fenner
> Sent: Thursday, April 11, 2013 5:03 PM
> To: Eugene Shinn
> Cc: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> Subject: Re: [Coral-List] BP Crude Oil Found in Heterotrophic Corals
> Yes, Tubastraea is and exotic in the Gulf of Mexico.  I know of no evidence
> it was there before oil platforms, and there were lots of oil platforms
> before any were found on the Flower Garden Banks.  The pattern of spread in
> the Caribbean is consistent with them having been introduced, most likely
> from the Pacific but also possible from West Africa.
> On Wed, Apr 10, 2013 at 8:45 AM, Eugene Shinn
> <eugeneshinn at mail.usf.edu>wrote:
> > Dear Steve, I just read the paper you published with Porter, Sammarco,
> > and Cake (I should have read it before my previous post) and agree that
> > this was most certainly BP oil. The photo (figure 2) showing the slick
> > not far from the platform is proof enough. In addition the samples were
> > taken between 12 and 20 meters below the surface. That corals at that
> > depth contained oil is clear evidence the oil contained Corexit. Without
> > surfactants oil would have been restricted to  surface waters above the
> > zone of coral growth. In my experience coral mucus resists absorption of
> > untreated crude oil even when totally submerged in oil. That is what
> > happened when I totally submerged /Acropora cervicornis/ in typical
> > Louisiana crude for one hour (the coral grew when placed back in sea
> > water). Below the surface slicks the amount of hydrocarbons dissolved in
> > sea water from untreated crude is generally low. Experiments performed
> > at Texas A and M in the early 1970s showed the maximum level of
> > hydrocarbon that could be dissolved in sea water was around 19 ppm. What
> > you have demonstrated is clearly many times greater. I conclude that is
> > because of the surfactant Corexit.  In the mid 1970s I helped write the
> > API oil spill clean up manual. I wrote the coral reef section. The main
> > conclusion was that surfactants should not be used on  oil spills in the
> > vicinity of coral reefs. I suspect you would agree with that conclusion.
> > The paper you have published is excellent! It will be interesting to see
> > how far westward this oil can be traced in corals. Is Tubastrea the
> > exotic that had drawn so much attention lately? Gene
> >
> > --
> >
> >
> > No Rocks, No Water, No Ecosystem (EAS)
> > ------------------------------------ -----------------------------------
> > E. A. Shinn, Courtesy Professor
> > University of South Florida
> > College of Marine Science Room 221A
> > 140 Seventh Avenue South
> > St. Petersburg, FL 33701
> > <eugeneshinn at mail.usf.edu>
> > Tel 727 553-1158
> > ---------------------------------- -----------------------------------
> >
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