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South Florida Aquatic Environments

Coral Reefs



WHITE BAND DISEASE
White band Disease
courtesy NASA
White Band Disease


Coral diseases:

White Band Disease

  • Symptoms:
    • Tissue peels from colonies of elkhorn and staghorn corals, leaving behind exposed white skeleton
    • Bare skeleton is quickly colonized by filamentous algae

  • Cause:
    • Scientists are unsure of the cause, however algae overgrowth may be the culprit


White band disease was discovered when biologists observed the peeling of tissue from colonies of elkhorn and staghorn (Acropora spp.) corals in waters of the U.S. Virgin Islands. This tissue loss resulted in a distinct line of bare white skeleton, after which this disease is named. Although scientists are unsure about the cause of this disease, it is suspected that algal overgrowth of the coral maybe the primary cause. White band disease progresses from the base of the colony up towards the tips of the branches. Bare, white coral skeleton is left behind, colonized by filamentous algae.

White band disease has had a devastating impact on the corals in the Caribbean, with the infection of approximately half of the shallow water elkhorn corals within the first five years after this disease was first observed. White band disease also devastated reefs in the Florida Keys, killing 95% of all Acropora corals. Even today, the presence of this disease is still evident on many reefs throughout the Caribbean.