Coral Reefs

, Volume 30, Issue 1, pp 73–84 | Cite as

Macroecological relationships between coral species’ traits and disease potential



Coral disease is a growing problem for reef corals and a primary driver of reef degradation. Incidences of coral disease on the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) are increasing; however, our understanding of differences among species in their potential for contracting disease is poor. In this study, we integrate observations of coral disease on the GBR from the primary literature as well as morphological, ecological and biogeographical traits of coral species that have been hypothesised to influence “disease potential.” Most of the examined traits influence species’ disease potential when considered alone. However, when all traits are analysed together, diversity of predators, geographical range size and characteristic local abundance are the primary predictors of disease potential. Biases associated with species’ local abundance and phylogeny are tested but do not overpower relationships. This large-scale macroecological evaluation of coral disease provides insights into species-level traits that drive disease susceptibility.


Reef corals Disease potential Species traits Macroecology Great Barrier Reef Predation 



We thank the Juan Armando Sánchez for helpful input about conducting the phylogenetic analysis. We thank the Andrew Allen and Melanie Bishop for analytical advice, and Andrew Baird, Simon Davy, and three anonymous reviewers for insightful manuscript reviews. The study was supported by an Australian Research Council Discovery Project grant to JSM (DP0987892).

Supplementary material

338_2010_668_MOESM1_ESM.doc (69 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 69 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesMacquarie UniversitySydneyAustralia
  2. 2.Facultad de Ciencias, Departamento de Ciencias Biológicas, Laboratorio de Biología Molecular Marina (BIOMMAR)Universidad de los AndesBogotáColombia

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