Discovery of the corallivorous polyclad flatworm, Amakusaplana acroporae, on the Great Barrier Reef, Australia - the first report from the wild

Rawlinson, Kate A., and Stella, Jessica (2012) Discovery of the corallivorous polyclad flatworm, Amakusaplana acroporae, on the Great Barrier Reef, Australia - the first report from the wild. PLoS One, 7 (8). e42240. pp. 1-6.

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Abstract

The role of corallivory is becoming increasingly recognised as an important factor in coral health at a time when coral reefs around the world face a number of other stressors. The polyclad flatworm, Amakusaplana acroporae, is a voracious predator of Indo-Pacific acroporid corals in captivity, and its inadvertent introduction into aquaria has lead to the death of entire coral colonies. While this flatworm has been a pest to the coral aquaculture community for over a decade, it has only been found in aquaria and has never been described from the wild. Understanding its biology and ecology in its natural environment is crucial for identifying viable biological controls for more successful rearing of Acropora colonies in aquaria, and for our understanding of what biotic interactions are important to coral growth and fitness on reefs. Using morphological, histological and molecular techniques we determine that a polyclad found on Acropora valida from Lizard Island, Australia is A. acroporae. The presence of extracellular Symbiodinium in the gut and parenchyma and spirocysts in the gut indicates that it is a corallivore in the wild. The examination of a size-range of individuals shows maturation of the sexual apparatus and increases in the number of eyes with increased body length. Conservative estimates of abundance show that A. acroporae occurred on 7 of the 10 coral colonies collected, with an average of 2.6±0.65 (mean ±SE) animals per colony. This represents the first report of A. acroporae in the wild, and sets the stage for future studies of A. acroporae ecology and life history in its natural habitat.

Item ID: 23545
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1932-6203
Funders: Australian Museum and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority Science for Management, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada
Date Deposited: 03 Oct 2012 05:28
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl Marine Ichthyology) @ 40%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0603 Evolutionary Biology > 060301 Animal Systematics and Taxonomy @ 30%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0603 Evolutionary Biology > 060307 Host-Parasite Interactions @ 30%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960803 Documentation of Undescribed Flora and Fauna @ 75%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9605 Ecosystem Assessment and Management > 960507 Ecosystem Assessment and Management of Marine Environments @ 25%
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