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Acropora palmata

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Erinn M Muller – 1st expert on this subject based on the ideXlab platform

  • disease prevalence and snail predation associated with swell generated damage on the threatened coral Acropora palmata lamarck
    Frontiers in Marine Science, 2016
    Co-Authors: Caroline S Rogers, Erinn M Muller, Allan J Bright, Marilyn E Brandt, Tyler B Smith


    Disturbances such as tropical storms cause coral mortality and reduce coral cover as a direct result of physical damage. Storms can be one of the most important disturbances in coral reef ecosystems, and it is crucial to understand their long-term impacts on coral populations. The primary objective of this study was to determine trends in disease prevalence and snail predation on damaged and undamaged colonies of the threatened coral species, Acropora palmata, following an episode of heavy ocean swells in the US Virgin Islands (USVI). At three sites on St. Thomas and St. John, colonies of A. palmata were surveyed monthly over one year following a series of large swells in March 2008 that fragmented 30 to 93% of colonies on monitored reefs. Post-disturbance surveys conducted from April 2008 through March 2009 showed that swell-generated damage to A. palmata caused negative indirect effects that compounded the initial direct effects of physical disturbance. During the 12 months after the swell event, white pox disease prevalence was 41% higher for colonies that sustained damage from the swells than for undamaged colonies (df = 207, p = 0.01) with greatest differences in disease prevalence occurring during warm water months. In addition, the corallivorous snail, Coralliophila abbreviata, was 46% more abundant on damaged corals than undamaged corals during the 12 months after the swell event (df = 207, p = 0.006).

  • genetic susceptibility colony size and water temperature drive white pox disease on the coral Acropora palmata
    PLOS ONE, 2014
    Co-Authors: Erinn M Muller, Robert Van Woesik


    Outbreaks of coral diseases are one of the greatest threats to reef corals in the Caribbean, yet the mechanisms that lead to coral diseases are still largely unknown. Here we examined the spatial-temporal dynamics of white-pox disease on Acropora palmata coral colonies of known genotypes. We took a Bayesian approach, using Integrated Nested Laplace Approximation algorithms, to examine which covariates influenced the presence of white-pox disease over seven years. We showed that colony size, genetic susceptibility of the coral host, and high-water temperatures were the primary tested variables that were positively associated with the presence of white-pox disease on A. palmata colonies. Our study also showed that neither distance from previously diseased individuals, nor colony location, influenced the dynamics of white-pox disease. These results suggest that white-pox disease was most likely a consequence of anomalously high water temperatures that selectively compromised the oldest colonies and the most susceptible coral genotypes.

  • early signs of recovery of Acropora palmata in st john us virgin islands
    Marine Biology, 2014
    Co-Authors: Erinn M Muller, Caroline S Rogers, R Van Woesik


    Since the 1980s, diseases have caused significant declines in the population of the threatened Caribbean coral Acropora palmata. Yet it is largely unknown whether the population densities have recovered from these declines and whether there have been any recent shifts in size-frequency distributions toward large colonies. It is also unknown whether colony size influences the risk of disease infection, the most common stressor affecting this species. To address these unknowns, we examined A. palmata colonies at ten sites around St. John, US Virgin Islands, in 2004 and 2010. The prevalence of white-pox disease was highly variable among sites, ranging from 0 to 53 %, and this disease preferentially targeted large colonies. We found that colony density did not significantly change over the 6-year period, although six out of ten sites showed higher densities through time. The size-frequency distributions of coral colonies at all sites were positively skewed in both 2004 and 2010, however, most sites showed a temporal shift toward more large-sized colonies. This increase in large-sized colonies occurred despite the presence of white-pox disease, a severe bleaching event, and several storms. This study provides evidence of slow recovery of the A. palmata population around St. John despite the persistence of several stressors.

Erin K Lipp – 2nd expert on this subject based on the ideXlab platform

  • abundance and multilocus sequence analysis of vibrio bacteria associated with diseased elkhorn coral Acropora palmata of the florida keys
    Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 2017
    Co-Authors: Keri M Kemp, Jason R Westrich, Magdy S Alabady, Martinique L Edwards, Erin K Lipp


    ABSTRACT The critically endangered elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata) is affected by white pox disease (WPX) throughout the Florida Reef Tract and wider Caribbean. The bacterium Serratia marcescens was previously identified as one etiologic agent of WPX but is no longer consistently detected in contemporary outbreaks. It is now believed that multiple etiologic agents cause WPX; however, to date, no other potential pathogens have been thoroughly investigated. This study examined the association of Vibrio bacteria with WPX occurrence from August 2012 to 2014 at Looe Key Reef in the Florida Keys, USA. The concentration of cultivable Vibrio was consistently greater in WPX samples than in healthy samples. The abundance of Vibrio bacteria relative to total bacteria was four times higher in samples from WPX lesions than in adjacent apparently healthy regions of diseased corals based on quantitative PCR (qPCR). Multilocus sequence analysis (MLSA) was used to assess the diversity of 69 Vibrio isolates collected from diseased and apparently healthy A. palmata colonies and the surrounding seawater. Vibrio species with known pathogenicity to corals were detected in both apparently healthy and diseased samples. While the causative agent(s) of contemporary WPX outbreaks remains elusive, our results suggest that Vibrio spp. may be part of a nonspecific heterotrophic bacterial bloom rather than acting as primary pathogens. This study highlights the need for highly resolved temporal sampling in situ to further elucidate the role of Vibrio during WPX onset and progression. IMPORTANCE Coral diseases are increasing worldwide and are now considered a major contributor to coral reef decline. In particular, the Caribbean has been noted as a coral disease hot spot, owing to the dramatic loss of framework-building acroporid corals due to tissue loss diseases. The pathogenesis of contemporary white pox disease (WPX) outbreaks in Acropora palmata remains poorly understood. This study investigates the association of Vibrio bacteria with WPX.

  • spatial homogeneity of bacterial communities associated with the surface mucus layer of the reef building coral Acropora palmata
    PLOS ONE, 2015
    Co-Authors: Dustin W Kemp, Erin K Lipp, James W Porter, Keri M Kemp, Adam R Rivers, John P Wares


    Coral surface mucus layer (SML) microbiota are critical components of the coral holobiont and play important roles in nutrient cycling and defense against pathogens. We sequenced 16S rRNA amplicons to examine the structure of the SML microbiome within and between colonies of the threatened Caribbean reef-building coral Acropora palmata in the Florida Keys. Samples were taken from three spatially distinct colony regions—uppermost (high irradiance), underside (low irradiance), and the colony base—representing microhabitats that vary in irradiance and water flow. Phylogenetic diversity (PD) values of coral SML bacteria communities were greater than surrounding seawater and lower than adjacent sediment. Bacterial diversity and community composition was consistent among the three microhabitats. Cyanobacteria, Bacteroidetes, Alphaproteobacteria, and Proteobacteria, respectively were the most abundant phyla represented in the samples. This is the first time spatial variability of the surface mucus layer of A. palmata has been studied. Homogeneity in the microbiome of A. palmata contrasts with SML heterogeneity found in other Caribbean corals. These findings suggest that, during non-stressful conditions, host regulation of SML microbiota may override diverse physiochemical influences induced by the topographical complexity of A. palmata. Documenting the spatial distribution of SML microbes is essential to understanding the functional roles these microorganisms play in coral health and adaptability to environmental perturbations.

  • systematic analysis of white pox disease in Acropora palmata of the florida keys and role of serratia marcescens
    Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 2015
    Co-Authors: Jessica Joyner, Kathryn P Sutherland, James W Porter, Dustin W Kemp, Brett Berry, Ashton Griffin, Molly H B Amador, Hunter K G Noren, Erin K Lipp


    ABSTRACT White pox disease (WPD) affects the threatened elkhorn coral, Acropora palmata. Owing in part to the lack of a rapid and simple diagnostic test, there have been few systematic assessments of the prevalence of acroporid serratiosis (caused specifically by Serratia marcescens) versus general WPD signs. Six reefs in the Florida Keys were surveyed between 2011 and 2013 to determine the disease status of A. palmata and the prevalence of S. marcescens. WPD was noted at four of the six reefs, with WPD lesions found on 8 to 40% of the colonies surveyed. S. marcescens was detected in 26.9% (7/26) of the WPD lesions and in mucus from apparently healthy colonies both during and outside of disease events (9%; 18/201). S. marcescens was detected with greater frequency in A. palmata than in the overlying water column, regardless of disease status ( P = 0.0177). S. marcescens could not be cultured from A. palmata but was isolated from healthy colonies of other coral species and was identified as pathogenic pulsed-field gel electrophoresis type PDR60. WPD lesions were frequently observed on the reef, but unlike in prior outbreaks, no whole-colony death was observed. Pathogenic S. marcescens was circulating on the reef but did not appear to be the primary pathogen in these recent WPD episodes, suggesting that other pathogens or stressors may contribute to signs of WPD. Results highlight the critical importance of diagnostics in coral disease investigations, especially given that field manifestation of disease may be similar, regardless of the etiological agent.

Iliana B Baums – 3rd expert on this subject based on the ideXlab platform

  • what drives phenotypic divergence among coral clonemates of Acropora palmata
    Molecular Ecology, 2019
    Co-Authors: Meghann K Durante, Dana E Williams, Iliana B Baums, Sam Vohsen, Dustin W Kemp


    : Evolutionary rescue of populations depends on their ability to produce phenotypic variation that is heritable and adaptive. DNA mutations are the best understood mechanisms to create phenotypic variation, but other, less well-studied mechanisms exist. Marine benthic foundation species provide opportunities to study these mechanisms because many are dominated by isogenic stands produced through asexual reproduction. For example, Caribbean acroporid corals are long lived and reproduce asexually via breakage of branches. Fragmentation is often the dominant mode of local population maintenance. Thus, large genets with many ramets (colonies) are common. Here, we observed phenotypic variation in stress responses within genets following the coral bleaching events in 2014 and 2015 caused by high water temperatures. This was not due to genetic variation in their symbiotic dinoflagellates (Symbiodinium “fitti”) because each genet of this coral species typically harbours a single strain of S. “fitti”. Characterization of the microbiome via 16S tag sequencing correlated the abundance of only two microbiome members (Tepidiphilus, Endozoicomonas) with a bleaching response. Epigenetic changes were significantly correlated with the host’s genetic background, the location of the sampled polyps within the colonies (e.g., branch vs. base of colony), and differences in the colonies’ condition during the bleaching event. We conclude that long-term microenvironmental differences led to changes in the way the ramets methylated their genomes, contributing to the differential bleaching response. However, most of the variation in differential bleaching response among clonemates of Acropora palmata remains unexplained. This research provides novel data and hypotheses to help understand intragenet variability in stress phenotypes of sessile marine species.

  • genotypic variation influences reproductive success and thermal stress tolerance in the reef building coral Acropora palmata
    Coral Reefs, 2013
    Co-Authors: Iliana B Baums, Meghann K Devlindurante, Nicholas R Polato, D Xu, S Giri, Naomi Altman, D Ruiz, John Everett Parkinson, Jennifer N Boulay


    The branching coral Acropora palmata is a foundation species of Caribbean reefs that has been decimated in recent decades by anthropogenic and natural stressors. Declines in population density and genotypic diversity likely reduce successful sexual reproduction in this self-incompatible hermaphrodite and might impede recovery. We investigated variation among genotypes in larval development under thermally stressful conditions. Six two-parent crosses and three four-parent batches were reared under three temperatures and sampled over time. Fertilization rates differed widely with two-parent crosses having lower fertilization rates (5–56 %, mean 22 % ± 22 SD) than batches (from 31 to 87 %, mean 59 % ± 28 SD). Parentage analysis of larvae in batch cultures showed differences in gamete compatibility among parents, coinciding with significant variation in both sperm morphology and egg size. While all larval batches developed more rapidly at increased water temperatures, rate of progression through developmental stages varied among batches, as did swimming speed. Together, these results indicate that loss of genotypic diversity exacerbates already severe limitations in sexual reproductive success of A. palmata. Nevertheless, surviving parental genotypes produce larvae that do vary in their phenotypic response to thermal stress, with implications for adaptation, larval dispersal and population connectivity in the face of warming sea surface temperatures.

  • gene discovery in the threatened elkhorn coral 454 sequencing of the Acropora palmata transcriptome
    PLOS ONE, 2011
    Co-Authors: Nicholas R Polato, Cristobal J Vera, Iliana B Baums


    Cnidarians, including corals and anemones, offer unique insights into metazoan evolution because they harbor genetic similarities with vertebrates beyond that found in model invertebrates and retain genes known only from non-metazoans. Cataloging genes expressed in Acropora palmata, a foundation-species of reefs in the Caribbean and western Atlantic, will advance our understanding of the genetic basis of ecologically important traits in corals and comes at a time when sequencing efforts in other cnidarians allow for multi-species comparisons.
    A cDNA library from a sample enriched for symbiont free larval tissue was sequenced on the 454 GS-FLX platform. Over 960,000 reads were obtained and assembled into 42,630 contigs. Annotation data was acquired for 57% of the assembled sequences. Analysis of the assembled sequences indicated that 83–100% of all A. palmata transcripts were tagged, and provided a rough estimate of the total number genes expressed in our samples (∼18,000–20,000). The coral annotation data contained many of the same molecular components as in the Bilateria, particularly in pathways associated with oxidative stress and DNA damage repair, and provided evidence that homologs of p53, a key player in DNA repair pathways, has experienced selection along the branch separating Cnidaria and Bilateria. Transcriptome wide screens of paralog groups and transition/transversion ratios highlighted genes including: green fluorescent proteins, carbonic anhydrase, and oxidative stress proteins; and functional groups involved in protein and nucleic acid metabolism, and the formation of structural molecules. These results provide a starting point for study of adaptive evolution in corals.
    Currently available transcriptome data now make comparative studies of the mechanisms underlying coral’s evolutionary success possible. Here we identified candidate genes that enable corals to maintain genomic integrity despite considerable exposure to genotoxic stress over long life spans, and showed conservation of important physiological pathways between corals and bilaterians.