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SPCMSC Research Microbiologist Dr. Christina Kellogg and Research Marine Biologist Dr. James Evans, along with fellow USGS scientist W. Bane Schill (Eastern Ecological Science Center) and numerous other collaborators, contributed to a study analyzing data combined from almost all currently existing SCTLD microbiome studies.

two photos of same coral. Left coral mostly covered in live tissue, with dead section. Right photo: dead coral covered in algae
The Florida Keys reefs have been experiencing a severe disease outbreak from 2014 to present called Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease (SCTLD). Depicted here are two photographs of the same coral colony of symmetrical brain coral, Pseudodiploria strigosa, that was infected by the disease in April 2015 (left photo) and completely dead by April 2016 (right photo). One of the signatures of this disease is the speed at which most corals are consumed by it; a coral can go from apparently healthy to one-hundred percent mortality in a few weeks. The photographs were taken during USGS research in Biscayne National Park at Fowey Rocks reef under scientific collection permits BISC-2015-SCI-0003 and BISC-2016-SCI-0003 issued to Ilsa B. Kuffner. Learn more about USGS Research on Coral Disease

Stony coral tissue loss disease (SCTLD) is a highly destructive disease currently devastating reefs throughout Florida and the wider Caribbean. The pathogen responsible for this disease is currently unknown, but bacteria are hypothesized to play some role due to the success of antibiotics in treating disease lesions. In the largest effort to date to understand bacterial communities associated with the disease, SPCMSC scientists Kellogg and Evans, along with fellow USGS scientist Schill (Eastern Ecological Science Center) and numerous other collaborators, took part in a meta-analysis encompassing data from nearly all existing studies analyzing SCTLD-associated bacterial communities. Analyzed datasets included bacterial community data from healthy and diseased coral tissue and mucus, seawater, and sediments, and included both field-based and aquaria studies. This study represents the largest meta-analysis of coral disease microbiome data ever performed and identified several bacterial groups, including Rhodobacterales and Peptostreptococcales-Tissierellales, that seemed to drive the differences between healthy and diseased corals. The paper, titled “A meta-analysis of the stony coral tissue loss disease microbiome finds key bacteria in lesions and unaffected tissue of diseased colonies” has been published in ISME Communications.



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