, Volume 29, Issue 4, p 941
Date: 07 Jul 2010

Are infestations of Cymo melanodactylus killing Acropora cytherea in the Chagos archipelago?

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Associations between branching corals and infaunal crabs are well known, mostly due to the beneficial effects of Trapezia and Tetralia crabs in protecting host corals from crown-of-thorns starfish (e.g., Pratchett et al. 2000) and/or sedimentation (Stewart et al. 2006). These crabs are obligate associates of live corals and highly prevalent across suitable coral hosts, with 1–2 individuals per colony (Patton 1994). Cymomelanodactylus (Fig. 1) are also prevalent in branching corals, mostly Acropora, and are known to feed on live coral tissue, but are generally found in low abundance (<3 per colony) and do not significantly affect their host corals (e.g., Patton 1994). In the Chagos archipelago, however, infestations of Cymomelanodactylus were found on recently dead and dying colonies of Acropora cytherea.Fig. 1

Cymomelanodactylus on Acropora (Photo by Brian Mayes)

Acropora cytherea is commonly dominant between 5 and 15 m depth at moderately exposed locations throughout Chagos. At several