First report of folliculinid ciliates affecting Caribbean scleractinian corals
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This is the first report of a ciliate of the genus Halofolliculina infecting hard coral species of six families (Acroporidae, Agaricidae, Astrocoeniidae, Faviidae, Meandrinidae and Poritidae) and milleporids in the Caribbean. Surveys conducted during 2004–2005 in Venezuela, Panama and México confirmed that this ciliate affects up to 25 scleractinian species. The prevalence of this ciliate at the coral community level was variable across sites, being most commonly found at Los Roques, Venezuela, and at Bocas del Toro, Panama (prevalence 0.2–2.5%), but rarely observed in the Mexican Caribbean. Ciliates were more prevalent within populations of acroporids (Acropora palmata, Acropora cervicornis and Acropora prolifera) in Los Roques. Recent observations also corroborate the presence of these ciliates in Curacao and Puerto Rico. Our observations indicate that ciliates affecting corals have a wider distribution than previously thought, and are no longer exclusively found in the Indo-Pacific and Red Sea.