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Healthy and infected Diadema antillarum

Detailed Description

Diadema antillarum, the long-spined sea urchin, is an ecologically important species in Caribbean coral reef habitats where it controls algal growth and coverage and helps keep reef surfaces clear for corals to grow and settle. In early 2022, the remaining D. antillarum populations began experiencing mass mortality in the Caribbean. Here, a healthy urchin is seen on the left with spines intact. On the right, another urchin is in the process of losing its spines—which usually occurs within 1-2 days of infection. 

With reefs already under tremendous stress from changing environmental conditions, warming and rising seas, and coral disease, identifying and stopping the spread of this fatal urchin event is critical for protecting coral reefs into the future.

Drs. James Evans and Christina Kellogg are part of an international team working to identify the pathogenic microbe—a critical first step to addressing this disease and helping managers develop effective disease mitigation strategies.


Photo by Ian Hewson, Cornell University. Used with permission.