James Cervino is Guest Investigator in Marine Chemistry & Geochemistry and he is Marine and Environmental Specialist. His research interests are Global Warming: Disaster Relief Restoration


Here we introduce a new marine syndrome called Ulcerated Yellow-Spot (UYS), affecting the soft coral Sarcophyton ehrenbergi. In order to begin identifying bacteria associated with tissue lesions, tissue and mucus samples were taken during a 2009 Indo-Pacific research expedition near the Wakatobi Island chain, Indonesia. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) targeting the 16S rDNA gene indicates associations with the known fish disease-causing bacteria Photobacterium damselae, as well as multiple Vibrio species. Results indicate a shift toward decreasing diversity in lesioned samples. P. damselae subsp. piscicida, formerly known as Pasteurella piscicida, is known as the causative agent of fish pasteurellosis and in this study, was isolated solely in lesioned tissues. Globally, fish pasteurellosisis one of the most damaging fish diseases in marine aquaculture. Vibrio alginolyticus, a putative pathogen associated with Yellow Band Disease (YBD) in scleractinian coral, was also isolated from lesioned tissues and consistent with Caribbean and Pacific YBD. Lesions appear to be inflicting damage on symbiotic zooxanthellae (Symbiodiniumsp.), measured by decreases in mitotic index (MI %), cell density and photosynthetic efficiency (dF/Fm'). Mitotic index of zooxanthellae within infected tissue samples revealed an ~80% decrease, while zooxanthellae densities depict an ~40% decrease in lesioned tissue samples compared to healthy coral. These results provide evidence for the presence of known aquaculture pathogens in lesioned soft coral and may be a concern with respect to cross species epizootics in the tropics.