Farming behaviour of reef fishes increases the prevalence of coral disease associated microbes and black band disease

Casey, Jordan M., Ainsworth, Tracy D., Choat, J. Howard, and Connolly, Sean R. (2014) Farming behaviour of reef fishes increases the prevalence of coral disease associated microbes and black band disease. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B, Biological Sciences, 281 (1788). 20141032. pp. 1-8.

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Microbial community structure on coral reefs is strongly influenced by coral-algae interactions; however, the extent to which this influence is mediated by fishes is unknown. By excluding fleshy macroalgae, cultivating palatable filamentous algae and engaging in frequent aggression to protect resources, territorial damselfish (f. Pomacentridae), such as Stegastes, mediate macro-benthic dynamics on coral reefs and may significantly influence microbial communities. To elucidate how Stegastes apicalis and Stegastes nigricans may alter benthic microbial assemblages and coral health, we determined the benthic community composition (epilithic algal matrix and prokaryotes) and coral disease prevalence inside and outside of damselfish territories in the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. 16S sequencing revealed distinct bacterial communities associated with turf algae and a two to three times greater relative abundance of phylotypes with high sequence similarity to potential coral pathogens inside Stegastes' territories. These potentially pathogenic phylotypes (totaling 26.08% of the community) were found to have high sequence similarity to those amplified from black band disease (BBD) and disease affected corals worldwide. Disease surveys further revealed a significantly higher occurrence of BBD inside S. nigricans’ territories. These findings demonstrate a link between fish behaviour, reservoirs of potential coral disease pathogens and the prevalence of coral disease.

Item ID: 34852
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1471-2954
Keywords: microbes, territorial grazers, coral reefs, benthic dynamics, epilithic algal matrix, coral disease
Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC), Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA)
Projects and Grants: ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies
Research Data:,
Date Deposited: 21 Aug 2014 04:49
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl Marine Ichthyology) @ 100%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960808 Marine Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 100%
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