Emma Pontes

Document Type

Internship Report

Publication Date

Spring 2017


Because of the many unique ecological services they provide, Acroporid corals are essential for reef health. The recent drastic decline of Acroporids on Caribbean reefs is largely due to the compounded effect of anthropogenic stressors plus White Band Disease (WBD) outbreaks. The recent urgency of maintaining and preserving Acroporid corals has triggered an interest in nursery-rearing stocks of genotyped organisms. The goal of this experiment was to identify potentially disease-resistant genotypes (genets) of Acropora cervicornis and Acropora palmata by working closely with the nursery practitioners (Coral Restoration Foundation and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission). Additionally, this study aimed to develop a reproducible protocol for disease inoculation and grafting experiments in the future. Identified genotypes of local A. cervicornis and A. palmata were paired with active disease inoculants and observed almost daily in order to record any disease transmission from inoculant to test fragment. Disease lesions upon the test fragments were measured, and a subsequent rate of tissue loss was calculated for each fragment. Additional variables such as proportional transmission and average time until visible tissue loss signs were calculated from the acquired data. The results of this study conclude that there are in fact nursery reared genets of A. cervicornis (C9 and C14) and A. palmata (P1) that appear to be relatively more resistant to disease than others. This result has major implications for informing management decisions in terms of out planting priority and design, as certain genets may fair better in disease prone areas. Considering coral genet as a significant influence on disease susceptibility and resistance will allow for a deeper understanding of disease virulence. Additionally, this study has successfully implemented a reproducible disease transmission protocol that can be replicated certainly throughout the Caribbean, but ideally worldwide.


Division: MBE

MPS Track: TME

Location: NOAA Southeast Fisheries Science Center

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