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Microbial Roles in Rapid Tissue Loss Disease of Acropora cervicornis Coral

Grant Winners

  • David S. Gilliam, PhD – Oceanographic Center
  • Jose V. Lopez, PhD – Oceanographic Center
  • Aurelien Tartar, PhD – Farquhar College of Arts and Sciences
  • Charles J. Walton, BS – Oceanographic Center


  • Richard Dodge, PhD – Oceanographic Center
  • Don Rosenblum, PhD – Farquhar College of Arts and Sciences


Award Winners

Acropora represents a keystone coral genus (with two major nominal species Acropora cervicornis and Acropora palmata) of the Florida reef tract, which has experienced significant decline throughout the Caribbean and Florida since the 1970s. Past and present SCUBA monitoring of A. cervicornis thickets offshore Broward County have identified disease as a significant source of mortality. Of the present diseases observed, rapid tissue loss (RTL) is of particular interest because of the extreme rate of progression resulting in mortality. The proposed project aims to characterize the bacterial communities associated with healthy and diseased A. cervicornis, establish baseline data of RTL associated bacterial communities, and identify potential etiological agents of RTL. These goals will be achieved using established molecular techniques, specifically "454" pyrosequencing and bioinformatics analysis. Fifty-four samples of A. cervicornis tissue and mucus from two sites consisting of completely healthy (H), healthy on diseased (HD), and diseased (D) conditions will be examined for differences in the bacteria associated with each condition. The proposed research is significant for the determination of the etiological agent(s) of RTL, which will also benefit current restoration and recovery efforts of A. cervicornis, an important coral species that is listed as threatened by the Endangered Species Act of 1973.

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