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USGS - science for a changing world

Greta S. Aeby

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Coral reefs are highly diverse ecosystems where symbioses play a pivotal role. Corals contain cell-associated microbial aggregates (CAMA), yet little is known about how widespread they are among coral species or the nature of the symbiotic relationship. Using histology, we found CAMA within 24 species of corals from 6 genera from Hawaii, American Samoa, Palmyra, Johnston Atoll, Guam, and Australia. Prevalence (%) of infection varied among coral genera: Acropora, Porites, and Pocillopora were commonly infected whereas Montipora were not. Acropora from the Western Pacific were significantly more likely to be infected with CAMA than those from the Central Pacific, whereas the reverse was true for Porites. Compared...
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In March 2010 and January 2012, we documented 2 widespread and severe coral disease outbreaks on reefs throughout Kāne‘ohe Bay, Hawai‘i (USA). The disease, acute Montipora white syndrome (aMWS), manifested as acute and progressive tissue loss on the common reef coral M. capitata. Rapid visual surveys in 2010 revealed 338 aMWS-affected M. capitata colonies with a disease abundance of (mean ± SE) 0.02 ± 0.01 affected colonies per m of reef surveyed. In 2012, disease abundance was significantly higher (1232 aMWS-affected colonies) with 0.06 ± 0.02 affected colonies m-1. Prior surveys found few acute tissue loss lesions in M. capitata in Kāne‘ohe Bay; thus, the high number of infected colonies found during these outbreaks...
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Diseases threaten the structure and function of marine ecosystems and are contributing to the global decline of coral reefs. We currently lack an understanding of how climate change stressors, such as ocean acidification (OA) and warming, may simultaneously affect coral reef disease dynamics, particularly diseases threatening key reef-building organisms, for example crustose coralline algae (CCA). Here, we use coralline fungal disease (CFD), a previously described CCA disease from the Pacific, to examine these simultaneous effects using both field observations and experimental manipulations. We identify the associated fungus as belonging to the subphylum Ustilaginomycetes and show linear lesion expansion rates on...
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Many coral diseases are characterized based on gross descriptions and, given the lack or difficulty of applying existing laboratory tools to understanding causes of coral diseases, most new diseases will continued to be described based on appearance in the field. Unfortunately, many existing descriptions of coral disease are ambiguous or open to subjective interpretation, making comparisons between oceans problematic. One reason for this is that the process of describing lesions is often confused with that of assigning causality for the lesion. However, causality is usually something not obtained in the field and requires additional laboratory tests. Because a concise and objective morphologic description provides...
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We performed histological examination of 69 samples of Acropora sp. manifesting different types of tissue loss (Acropora White Syndrome-AWS) from Hawaii, Johnston Atoll and American Samoa between 2002 and 2006. Gross lesions of tissue loss were observed and classified as diffuse acute, diffuse subacute, and focal to multifocal acute to subacute. Corals with acute tissue loss manifested microscopic evidence of necrosis sometimes associated with ciliates, helminths, fungi, algae, sponges, or cyanobacteria whereas those with subacute tissue loss manifested mainly wound repair. Gross lesions of AWS have multiple different changes at the microscopic level some of which involve various microorganisms and metazoa. Elucidating...
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