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Summary

Serratia marcescens is an enteric bacterium that causes white pox disease in elkhorn coral, Acropora palmata; however, it remains unclear if the pathogenic strain has adapted to seawater or if it requires a host or reservoir for survival. To begin to address this fundamental issue, the persistence of strain PDL100 was compared among seawater and coral mucus microcosms. Median survival time across all conditions ranged from a low of 15 h in natural seawater [with a first-order decay constant (k) = −0.173] at 30°C to a maximum of 120 h in glucose-amended A. palmata mucus (k = −0.029) at 30°C. Among seawater and mucus microcosms, median survival time was significantly greater within Siderastrea siderea mucus compared with seawater or mucus of Montastraea faveolata or A. palmata (P < 0.0001). In seawater, the addition of phosphate and especially glucose resulted in significant improvements in survival (P < 0.001), while only the addition of glucose resulted in significant improvement in survival in A. palmata mucus (P < 0.0001). Increasing the temperature of seawater to 35°C resulted in a significantly slower decay than that observed at 30°C (P < 0.0001). The results of this study indicate that PDL100 is not well-adapted to marine water; however, survival can be improved by increasing temperature, the availability of coral mucus from S. siderea and most notably the presence of dissolved organic carbon.