By, Rudy Bonn, Reef Relief’s Director of Marine Projects
On Wednesday, August 31st, I had the privilege to meet dive with Dr. James Porter from the Odum School of Ecology, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia and a member of Reef Relief’s Scientific Advisory Board . Dr. Porter was accompanied by Meridith Meyers, a PhD student who is doing her work on the genetics of coral species in the genus, Agaricia.
Dr. Porter and a number of fellow researchers were the first to link a devastating disease in the threatened Elkhorn Coral, Acropora palmata, to a unique strain of a bacterium known as Serratia marcescens, strain PDR60, that is an opportunistic pathogen found in human waste.
The disease, known as acroporid serratiosis ( APS ), commonly referred to as white pox, has devastated the elkhorn coral populations in the Florida Keys, and was the main reason why the coral was listed for protection under the Endangered Species Act ( ESA ) in 2006.
White Band Disease ( WBD ), another coral killer, is mainly responsible for the high mortality that the staghorn ( A. cervicornis ) coral populations have suffered in recent years and the etiology of WBD is still unknown. Both corals are listed as threatened under the ESA.
What is also very important about the research that Dr. Porter and colleague, Dr. Kathryn P. Sutherland, of Rollins College, in Winter Park, Florida, have discovered is the first example of a marine “reverse zoonosis” involving the transmission of a human pathogen to a marine invertebrate. Their findings underscore the interaction between public health practices and environmental health indices such as coral reef survival. Read the full article