Explained and unexplained tissue loss in corals from the Tropical Eastern Pacific

Dis Aquat Organ. 2015 Oct 16;116(2):121-31. doi: 10.3354/dao02914.


Coral reefs rival rainforest in biodiversity, but are declining in part because of disease. Tissue loss lesions, a manifestation of disease, are present in dominant Pocillopora along the Pacific coast of Mexico. We characterized tissue loss in 7 species of Pocillopora from 9 locations (44 sites) spanning southern to northern Mexico. Corals were identified to species, and tissue loss lesions were photographed and classified as those explainable by predation and those that were unexplained. A focal predation study was done concurrently at 3 locations to confirm origin of explained lesions. Of 1054 cases of tissue loss in 7 species of corals, 84% were associated with predation (fish, snails, or seastar) and the remainder were unexplained. Types of tissue loss were not related to coral density; however there was significant geographic heterogeneity in type of lesion; one site in particular (Cabo Pulmo) had the highest prevalence of predator-induced tissue loss (mainly pufferfish predation). Crown-of-thorns starfish, pufferfish, and snails were the most common predators and preferred P. verrucosa, P. meandrina, and P. capitata, respectively. Of the 9 locations, 4 had unexplained tissue loss with prevalence ranging from 1 to 3% with no species predilection. Unexplained tissue loss was similar to white syndrome (WS) in morphology, indicating additional study is necessary to clarify the cause(s) of the lesions and the potential impacts to dominant corals along the Pacific coast of Mexico.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anthozoa / physiology*
  • Coral Reefs
  • Fishes / physiology*
  • Mexico
  • Pacific Ocean
  • Predatory Behavior*
  • Snails / physiology*
  • Starfish / physiology*