‘Quick scan’ to assess the prevalence of dermal parasites among coral reef fishes of Bonaire.
In the past, diseases and infections have had dramatic impacts on Caribbean coral reef ecosystems (e.g. white band disease in corals (Pantos and Bythell, 2006); mass mortality of the sea urchin Diadema (Lessions, 2005)). Regular monitoring of reef organisms for signs of disease and infections may be important as an “early warning system” to possibly prevent devastating outbreaks.
In September 2013 an unusual number of reef fish species (e.g. Scaridae (Fig. 1.1 , Acanthuridae and Pomacanthidae) infected with dermal parasites were observed during a dive at Salt Pier (M. de Graaf, pers. obs.). In September 2014 one princess parrotfish infected with dermal parasites was dissected and internal and external samples were send to the Central Veterinairy Institute (CVO) in Lelystad (Netherlands) for further histopathological examination. According to CVO the parrotfish suffered from a microspore parasitic infection of the skin, muscles and digestive tract. The cysts caused fibrotic abscesses and necrosis on the fins.
Similar dermal parasites were observed in a recent survey of coral reef fishes on Curaçao and the observed external blemishes were associated with infections by trematodes (digenean metacercaria), turbellarians and protozoans (Cryptocaryon) (Bernal et al., 2015). Bernal et al. (2015) reported that infection rates of coral reef fish on Curacao were almost ten times higher compared to infection rates of coral reef fish surveyed in Mexico and Belize. To date, only anecdotal observations exist of parasite infections on coral reef fish on Bonaire but no quantitative assessment of the prevalence of dermal parasites is available.
The objective of the Helpdeskvraag was to:
1) conduct a “quick scan” to determine the current prevalence of dermal parasites among the coral reef fish of Bonaire, and
2) advise EZ on possible consequences and future actions depending on the outcome of the “quick scan”.