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White plague, white band, and other "white" diseases

Lookup NU author(s): Professor John BythellORCiD, Dr Olga Pantos


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Although commonly reported among disease occurrences of reef corals (Weil et al. 2002), the “white” diseases are probably the most enigmatic. There are a number of these diseases, or syndromes, and confusion arises because of the very similar disease signs that are present in association with each of them. The ‘white syndromes’ include white band disease (Antonius 1981b; Gladfelter 1982), more recently divided into two groups, white band type I and white band type II (Ritchie and Smith 1998); white plague (or simply plague; Dustan 1977), again recently divided into white plague types (WP) I, II and III (Richardson et al. 1998a, b, 2001); and ‘stress-related necrosis’, “patchy necrosis”, or ‘shut-down reaction’ (Antonius 1981a; Peters 1983, 1984). Confusion between white plague and white band disease is problematic because the visible signs of the diseases are virtually identical in that there is a sharp, distinct line between apparently healthy coral tissue and freshly exposed coral skeleton with no obvious microbial material present. At times, some types of both white band and white plague may have a zone of bleached coral tissue at the disease boundary, but in both cases this is usually transient and variable. The distinction has been based primarily on the host species affected, with Acropora species in the Caribbean commonly reported to be affected by white band disease and other scleractinian species, including massive species, affected by white plague. Early studies (e.g. Antonius 1981a, b) used the terms interchangeably and any historical analysis must therefore account for both diseases. Both Antonius (1981b) and Peters (1984) reported the presence of white band disease on a number of massive corals as well as the branching acroporas. More recently, investigators have been studying the etiology of a coral disease associated with white lesions (Bythell et al. 2002), which appears similar to WPI as well as patchy necrosis. This review specifically explores what is known about the different “white” disease types, including an assessment of their comparative prevalence and impacts on reef coral populations. Recent results of culture-independent studies of bacterial 16S rRNA gene diversity of white plague disease are discussed.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Bythell JC, Pantos O, Richardson LL

Editor(s): Rosenberg, E., Loya, Y.

Publication type: Book Chapter

Publication status: Published

Book Title: Coral Health and Disease

Year: 2004

Pages: 351-365

Publisher: Springer

Place Published: New York

Library holdings: Search Newcastle University Library for this item

ISBN: 9783540207726