The field of coral disease research is in its infancy, and thus most diseases remain largely uncharacterized and the associated threat to coral survival is in many cases undetermined. Basic disease parameters such as etiology, transmissibility, pathogenesis, effects on physiological function, and risk of mortality have not been determined for many coral diseases. Comprehensive characterization of disease-like syndromes is needed to determine impacts on organismal function, population viability, and coral reef ecosystem integrity. Skeletal growth anomaly (SGA) is one such disease that remains largely uncharacterized with little understanding of the physiological impacts imposed on affected corals. The major goal of this thesis was to use a multi-faceted approach to thoroughly document the characteristics of SGA affecting M. capitata corals at Wai`ōpae tide pools, southeast Hawai`i Island, where an abnormally high prevalence of this disease has been observed.
This thesis research is presented in three chapters, each utilizing distinct methods for investigating coral health and function. Each chapter is presented in format for publication to peer-reviewed journals. Chapter 1 is currently in review for publication in the journal Coral Reefs; Chapters 2 and 3 will be submitted as separate papers for publication in the near future. Chapter 1 investigates disease morphology, prevalence, severity, pathogenesis, and determines cofactors associated with SGA cover. Chapter 2 utilizes histopathology and X-ray diffractometry (XRD) to explore the tissue and skeletal characteristics associated with this disease. Chapter 3 employs pulse-amplitude modulation (PAM) fluorometry to determine the impacts of SGA on symbiont photophysiology. These chapters show that two distinct forms of this disease affect M. capitata, Type A and B, with Type B being the more degenerative and later stage of the disease. Both forms of SGA undergo cellular changes which compromise physiological functions such as reproduction, defense, as well as feeding and digestion. Furthermore, symbiotic dinoflagellates occupying lesion tissue exhibit reductions in photophysiological performance, suggesting less translocated energy is available to the host to meet necessary metabolic demands.
Combining fine-scale physiological analyses with population-scale epizootiological data allowed for quantifying the threat this disease poses to organismal and population viability. Future studies should aim to determine causal factors that promote disease prevalence, such as water quality and environmental stressors, as well as determine mechanisms of transmissibility in order to determine how this epizootic may progress in the future.
|School:||University of Hawai'i at Hilo|
|School Location:||United States -- Hawaii|
|Source:||MAI 49/03M, Masters Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Biological oceanography, Zoology|
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