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Fungi in healthy and diseased sea fans Gorgonia ventalina is Aspergillus sydowii always the pathogen?


, : Fungi in healthy and diseased sea fans Gorgonia ventalina is Aspergillus sydowii always the pathogen?. Coral Reefs 27(3): 707-714

Caribbean corals, including sea fans (Gorgonia spp.), are being affected by severe and apparently new diseases. In the case of sea fans, the pathogen is reported to be the fungus Aspergillus sydowii, and the disease is named aspergillosis. In order to understand coral diseases and pathogens, knowledge of the microbes associated with healthy corals is also necessary. In this study the fungal community of healthy Gorgonia ventalina colonies was contrasted with that of diseased colonies. In addition, the fungal community of healthy and diseased tissue within colonies with aspergillosis was contrasted. Fungi were isolated from healthy and diseased fans from 15 reefs around Puerto Rico, and identified by sequencing the nuclear ribosomal ITS region and by morphology. Thirty fungal species belonging to 15 genera were isolated from 203 G. ventalina colonies. Penicillum and Aspergillus were the most common genera isolated from both healthy and diseased fans. However, the fungal community of healthy fans was distinct and more diverse than that of diseased ones. Within diseased fans, fungal communities from diseased tissues were distinct and more diverse than from healthy tissue. The reduction of fungi in diseased colonies may occur prior to infection due to environmental changes affecting the host, or after infection due to increase in dominance of the pathogen, or because of host responses to infection. Data also indicate that the fungal community of an entire sea fan colony is affected even when only a small portion of the colony suffers from aspergillosis. An unexpected result was that A. sydowii was found in healthy sea fans but never in diseased ones. This result suggests that A. sydowii is not the pathogen causing aspergillosis in the studied colonies, and suggests several fungi common to healthy and diseased colonies as opportunistic pathogens. Given that it is not clear that Aspergillus is the sole pathogen, calling this disease aspergillosis is an oversimplification at best.

US$19.90

DOI: 10.1007/s00338-008-0387-2


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