The bacterial ecology of a plague-like disease affecting the Caribbean coral Montastrea annularis

Authors

  • Olga Pantos,

    Corresponding author
    1. School of Biology, Ridley Building, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 7RU, UK.
      *E-mail olga.pantos@ncl.ac.uk; Tel. (+44) 191 2225048; Fax (+44) 191 2227891.
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  • Rory P. Cooney,

    1. School of Biology, Ridley Building, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 7RU, UK.
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  • Martin D. A. Le Tissier,

    1. School of Marine Science and Technology, Ridley Building, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 7RU, UK.
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  • Michael R. Barer,

    1. Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Medical Sciences Building PO Box 138, Leicester University, University Road, Leicester LE2 1EH, UK.
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  • Anthony G. O'Donnell,

    1. School of Biology, Ridley Building, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 7RU, UK.
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  • John C. Bythell

    1. School of Biology, Ridley Building, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 7RU, UK.
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*E-mail olga.pantos@ncl.ac.uk; Tel. (+44) 191 2225048; Fax (+44) 191 2227891.

Summary

The bacterial communities associated with the Caribbean coral Montastrea annularis showing tissue lesions indicative of a White Plague (WP)-like disease were investigated. Two molecular screening techniques using bacterial 16S rDNA genes were used and demonstrated distinct differences between the bacterial communities of diseased and non-diseased coral tissues, and also in relation to the proximity of tissue lesions on diseased corals. Differences between non-diseased corals and the apparently healthy tissues remote from the tissue lesion in affected corals indicates a ‘whole coral’ response to a relatively small area of infection with a perturbation in the normal microbial flora occurring prior to the onset of visible signs of disease. These whole organism changes in the microbial flora may serve as a bioindicator of environmental stress and disease. There were striking similarities between the 16S rDNA sequence composition associated with the WP-like disease studied here and that previously reported in association with black band disease (BBD) in coral. Similarities included the presence of a potential pathogen, an α-proteobacterium identified as the causal agent of juvenile oyster disease (JOD). The WP-like disease studied here is apparently different to WP Type ii because the bacterial species previously identified as the causal agent of WP Type ii was not detected, although the symptoms of the two diseases are similar.

Ancillary