Isolation of potential fungal pathogens in gorgonian corals at the Tropical Eastern Pacific
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A major environmental problem in the ocean is the alarming increase in diseases affecting diverse marine organisms including corals. Environmental factors such as the rising seawater temperatures and terrestrial microbial input to the ocean have contributed to the increase in diseased organisms. We isolated and identified the fungal agents that may be leading to a disease in the Pacific sea fan Pacifigorgia eximia (Gorgoniidae, Octocorallia) in the Tropical Eastern Pacific. We isolated thirteen fungal genera in healthy and diseased colonies including Aspergillus sydowii. Aspergillus has been previously identified as responsible for the mortality of gorgonian corals in the Caribbean. This disease was observed in the Eastern Pacific affecting a completely different set of species nearly 30 years after the Caribbean outbreak, which concur with rising seawater temperatures and thermal anomalies that have been observed in the last 4 years.
KeywordsTropical Eastern Pacific Pacifigorgia Gorgonia Sea fan, gorgonian coral Fungal disease Aspergillosis Aspergillus
This study was funded by the Universidad de los Andes, Colombia (Interfacultades, Vicerrectoria de Investigaciones, and Facultad de Ciencias), National Geographic Society-Waitt grants and COLCIENCIAS (grant No. 1204-521-29002). We appreciated the help from colleagues and students from BIOMMAR for assistant in the field and laboratory, especially Martha Cárdenas, Diana Ballesteros and Néstor Ardila. Thanks to Ministerio del Medio Ambiente y Desarrollo Sostenible, Colombia. Odalisca Breedy and Héctor Guzman kindly revised and corrected the identifications of the octocorals collected in this study. The comments and suggestions from three anonymous reviewers greatly contributed to improve the manuscript. We recognize the participation and support from local communities.
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