New Research

Stony coral tissue loss disease accelerated shifts in coral composition and declines in reef accretion potential in the Florida Keys
Toth, LT et al., 2023 in Frontiers in Marine Science “Average regional reef-accretion potential declined from an already low, but positive rate of 0.30±0.16 mm y-1 (mean ± standard error) in 2016 before the disease was first observed, to a state of accretionary stasis (0.08±0.12 mm y-1) by 2022. This 70% relative decline in reef-accretion potential was driven by the loss of reef-building corals, with decreases in carbonate production by massive taxa including Colpophyllia natans, Montastraea cavernosa, Pseudodiploria strigosa, Orbicella spp., and Siderastrea siderea, and increasing contributions from less susceptible, weedy taxa including Millepora spp., Agaricia spp., and Porites astreoides. In general, changes in taxon-level carbonate production following the SCTLD outbreak mirror long-term shifts in reef assemblages in response to previous stressors. One striking exception, however, is S. siderea, which had become increasingly dominant in recent decades, but declined significantly in response to SCTLD.

Coral affected by stony coral tissue loss disease can produce viable offspring.
Mendoza Quiroz S et al., 2023 in PeerJ. “..Stony coral tissue loss disease (SCTLD) has caused high mortality of at least 25 coral species across the Caribbean, with Pseudodiploria strigosa being the second most affected species in the Mexican Caribbean.. This study shows that even diseased parent colonies can be effective in assisted sexual reproduction for the restoration of species affected by SCTLD.”

Evaluating the spread of stony coral tissue loss disease in the Bay Islands, Honduras
Truc I de Tomas, Mar, et al. 2023 in Frontiers in Marine Science ” In January 2020, monitoring efforts to detect SCTLD began on the island of Roatan in Honduras. The disease was first reported in Flowers Bay, Roatan, in September 2020…To track the progression of the outbreak, presence-absence data were collected using the rover diver methodology. With at least 28 species affected, SCTLD has spread across the Bay Islands over a period of 13 months. Roatan and Utila have been the most impacted islands, with the disease encircling them rapidly at a rate of approximately 155 m/day. The spread of SCTLD was overall rapid, but geographical patterns were detected in Roatan, where it showed faster progression on the windward side than on the leeward side. Further research is required to explore whether these disparities are related to marine traffic, water quality, currents, or a combination of multiple factors.

An introduction to lesions and histology of scleractinian corals
A Hawthron et al., 2023 in Veterinary Pathology “Coral reefs worldwide, but particularly in the Caribbean, are experiencing unprecedented levels of disease, resulting in reef degradation. Most coral diseases remain poorly described and lack clear case definitions, while the etiologies and pathogenesis are even more elusive. This introductory guide is focused on reef-building corals and describes basic gross and microscopic lesions in these corals in order to serve as an invitation to other veterinary pathologists to play a critical role in defining and advancing the field of coral pathology.