Please select your home edition
Edition
Wildwind 2016 728x90

Crabs help Great Barrier Reef coral combat white syndrome

by ARC Centre of Excellence Coral Reef Studies on 20 Feb 2013
Crabs help Great Barrier reef fight deadly disease F. Joseph Pollock
A particular species of crab has been assisting Great Barrier Reef coral in combating white syndrome, a deadly disease that causes coral tissue to disintegrate.

Joseph Pollock, from James Cook University’s School of Marine and Tropical Biology and the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), has been studying the disease, and its unlikely helper, the 'furry coral crab'.

The study, Cymo melanodactylus crabs slow progression of white syndrome lesions on corals, describes how coral-associated crabs help protect their coral hosts from disease, both of which appear throughout the Indo-Pacific.

Mr Pollock said another research team at JCU had originally reported on an association between white syndrome and these crabs.

Initially, it was thought the crabs were to blame for the disease, rather than helping cure it, he said.

'Researchers originally speculated that they may actually cause the disease, since diseased colonies have high numbers of crabs and it is known that these crabs can eat coral tissue,' he said.

'I have been doing a number of assays to determine the cause of this disease and it didn’t seem that the crabs could cause the amount of destruction you see with this disease, in which the coral tissue essentially just falls off of the coral skeleton.

'This was the first study to report that they actually slow the disease progression. To my knowledge, this is also the first study to demonstrate that coral-dwelling invertebrates have the potential to slow disease progression on their host.'

Mr Pollock said it was not entirely clear how the crabs slowed the disease progression.

'We hypothesize that it may be in a manner similar to maggot debridement therapy, an ancient medical treatment that is actually still in use today.'

Mr Pollock likened it to actor Russell Crow’s character in the film Gladiator when he has his shoulder wound cleaned by maggots.

'Essentially, the crabs could be slowing the disease by simply feeding on sloughing coral tissue and potentially harmful microbes at the lesion front.'

Mr Pollock said he had been studying white syndrome coral disease at Lizard Island, about 240km north of Cairns and 27km off the Far North Queensland coast, for about two years but this set of experiments was quite brief.

'We basically collected healthy and diseased coral colonies from the field, manipulated the crab numbers, and observed the fragments for three weeks.'

The disease had a devastating effect on corals, he said.

'The disease is pretty nasty. Essentially, the corals tissue just falls off of the skeleton and it is often fatal to the coral. Imagine your skin and muscle starting to fall off at your fingertips and spreading over the entire body leaving behind only skeleton.

'It is also interesting that we found these crabs to be very strongly attracted to white syndrome colonies. This means that when a coral is infected with the disease, crabs from nearby coral colonies could migrate to the diseased colony, slowing the disease. This could be a very interesting feedback mechanism whereby these crabs help to slow coral disease on reefs.'

The experiments were performed by Mr Pollock and Mr Sefano Katz, a collaborator from Israel who is completing an internship at JCU.

JCU’s Professor Bette Willis and Dr David Bourne from AIMS provided feedback and guidance on the manuscript.

This work was funded through by a Lizard Island Research Foundation Fellowship awarded to Mr Pollock for study at Lizard Island Research Station, a facility of the Australian Museum for two years.



For interviews, Mr Pollock can be contacted on 0466 407 141 or ARC Centre of Excellence Coral Reef Studies

North Technology - Southern SparsHelm Events 660x82PredictWind.com 2014

Related Articles

Great Barrier Reef managers and industry prepare for summer
Marine park managers, scientists and experts recently met for the annual pre-summer workshop Marine park managers, scientists and experts recently met for the annual pre-summer workshop to assess climate-related risks to the Great Barrier Reef over the coming months. Current predictions by the Bureau of Meteorology and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are for a summer of average sea temperatures across the Great Barrier Reef.
Posted on 7 Dec
Fourth Blog from on board Perie Banou II
Oh no - not the coffee cup Oh no - not the coffee cup - Jon keeps us all entertained as he approaches Reunion Island. The B&G chartplotter tells me since leaving the pleasant mid Western Australian town of Carnarvon (by world standards, an isolated town), that I have sailed some 2559 NM and have 751nm to go to Le Port Reunion Island. French. Reunion is a Suburb (department) of Paris. Population 844,000.
Posted on 23 Nov
Third Blog from onboard Perie Banou II
Wind over the last week has been quiet and mild - Trade Winds from South East and South South East. It is 0830am here. 1030 in Western Australia. Windy. Rather Windy. Wind over the last week has been quiet and mild - Trade Winds from South East and South South East. Barometer 1018 to 1020 whatever they are. Last night I tapped the barometer and it sorta went oops. 1015hPa. Blimey.
Posted on 18 Nov
Second Blog from onboard Perie Banou II
This is day 13 since leaving the mid Western Australian town of Carnarvon. Remote region. Beautiful town. This is day 13 since leaving the mid Western Australian town of Carnarvon. Remote region. Beautiful town. Kept cooler by the strong south winds, which make the trees bend and grow to the north. Carnarvon is nice, especially the months of September, October, November, and December. The wind is strong. Often near gale strength, with squalls and blue skies.
Posted on 15 Nov
Mayflower 400 Crowdfunding Campaign
On 24th October a Crowdfunding campaign was started to help raise funds to build the Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS) On 24th October a Crowdfunding campaign was started to help raise funds to build the Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS) which aims to sail across the North Atlantic Ocean in 2020 in the footsteps of the Pilgrim Fathers.
Posted on 5 Nov
Predictwind - Images of Hurricane Matthew's trajectory - 0800GMT Oct 7
Hurricane Matthew is now moving up the Florida coast, having bypassed Miami. Hurricane Matthew is now moving up the Florida coast, having bypassed Miami. In these images from Predictwind's wind mapping facility we can see the path and shape of the of the hurricane as it moves past Daytona Beach moving along the US coast before coming to a stop around Jacksonville.
Posted on 7 Oct
Predictwind - Images of Hurricane Matthew's trajectory - 1
In these images from Predictwind's wind mapping facility we can see the path and shape of the of the hurricane Hurricane Matthew has wrecked havoc in the Caribbean and Haiti in particular. In these images from Predictwind's wind mapping facility we can see the path and shape of the of the hurricane as it moves towards a landing point on the US coast just north of Miami and then moves along the US coast before coming to a stop around Jacksonville. A second hurricane is aimed at Bermuda.
Posted on 6 Oct
Terry Kohler, driving force of North Technology dies at 82
Terry Kohler who purchased North Sails was the driving force behind the North Technology Group, has died aged 82 Terry Kohler who purchased North Sails from Lowell North over 30 years ago and was the driving force behind the North Technology Group, has died aged 82. With the combined company of North sails and Southern Spars, Kohler created the 'Engine above the Deck' concept which married the technology used to build the sails and spars to be designed and work as an integral unit.
Posted on 21 Sep
'Grate Art' in Hong Kong
Hong Kong charity pioneers environmental awareness through innovative storm grate installations In an effort to help Hong Kongers play their part in protecting the world’s ocean, Ocean Recovery Alliance is raising awareness through a unique public art installation called ‘Grate Art’. Hong Kong’s drainage system is one of the main sources for debris outflow into the ocean, and Ocean Recovery Alliance is tackling this problem upstream through an initiative that uses “art for awareness”.
Posted on 14 Sep
Zhik sailors win 17 sailing medals at 2016 Olympic Regatta
The 2016 Olympic games are over and what a Games they have been - Zhik sailors dominated Zhik sailors won almost 60% of the medals contested at Rio de Janeiro. It was a regatta which tested sailors and gear - with one day being the most severe conditions ever experienced at an Olympic regatta. For the Zhik team riders on the waters of Rio, four years and more of hard work and dedication have paid off for many.
Posted on 29 Aug