Black Mantle Tissue of Endolithic Mussels (Leiosolenus spp.) Is Cloaking Borehole Orifices in Caribbean Reef Corals

Abstract: Bioerosion caused by boring mussels (Mytilidae: Lithophaginae) can negatively impact coral reef health. During biodiversity surveys of coral-associated fauna in Curaçao (southern Caribbean), morphological variation in mussel boreholes was studied. Borings were found in 22 coral species, 12 of which represented new host records. Dead corals usually showed twin siphon openings, for each mussel shaped like a figure of eight, which were lined with a calcareous sheath and protruded as tubes from the substrate surface. Most openings surrounded by live coral tissue were deeper and funnel-shaped, with outlines resembling dumbbells, keyholes, ovals or irregular ink blotches. The boreholes appeared to contain black siphon and mantle tissue of the mussel. Because of the black color and the hidden borehole opening in live host corals, the mantle tissue appeared to mimic dark, empty holes, while they were actually cloaking live coral tissue around the hole, which is a new discovery. By illustrating the morphological range of borehole orifices, we aim to facilitate the easy detection of boring mussels for future research.

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