, Volume 32, Issue 1, pp 43-48
Date: 11 Nov 2012

Cymo melanodactylus crabs slow progression of white syndrome lesions on corals

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Predation on coral tissue by the crab Cymo melanodactylus has been hypothesized to contribute to tissue loss caused by white syndromes (WS) in acroporid corals. Here, we demonstrate that transplanting C. melanodactylus crabs from WS-infected Acropora colonies onto healthy coral fragments in controlled aquarium experiments does not result in WS transmission over a 21-day experimental period. Furthermore, progression of WS lesions was three times more rapid on corals with all C. melanodactylus crabs removed than on those with crabs (2.28 ± 0.21 vs. 0.74 ± 0.22 cm/day, respectively); thus, crabs slow WS disease progression under experimental conditions. In choice experiments, C. melanodactylus crabs were strongly attracted to corals with WS lesions, with 87 % of crabs migrating to WS fragments versus 3 % to healthy fragments. The strong attraction of C. melanodactylus to WS-infected corals and their ability to significantly reduce lesion progression rates suggest a mechanism whereby these coral-dwelling crabs could mitigate the effects of WS diseases on reefs.

Communicated by Biology Editor Dr. Mark Vermeij