Alternate Title

Pathologies Affecting Reef Corals at the Flower Garden Banks, Northwestern Gulf of Mexico


The Flower Garden Banks are high-latitude reefs consisting of coral caps on the top of salt domes in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico. Limited studies to date report low incidence of coral disease on these reefs. Surveys were conducted to document the extent of coral diseases throughout the Flower Garden Banks, including types of disease present, species affected, percentage of recent colony mortality, cases of "false" disease, and descriptions of new pathologies. Very few of the known (or reported) Western Atlantic diseases were found, and they occurred at extremely low frequencies. Tissue-skeletal anomalies were common. Several conditions resembled known diseases, although their appearance was not wholly consistent with described pathologies and they may represent different conditions. Both "ridge-mortality disease" and "rapid wasting disease" were confirmed to be the result of fish biting activities. Several novel pathologic conditions that do not fit the description or known etiology of any currently described coral disease were discovered at relatively high prevalence rates. Because of an absence of standardized coral disease nomenclature and the unknown etiology of these novel syndromes, they are tentatively named pale ring, pale patch, and mottling syndromes on the basis of field characteristics.