Feeding Behavior of Coralliophila sp. on Corals Affected by Caribbean Ciliate Infection (CCI): A New Possible Vector?

Abstract: Coral reefs in the Caribbean are known to be affected by many coral diseases, yet the ecology and etiology of most diseases remain understudied. The Caribbean ciliate infection (CCI) caused by ciliates belonging to the genus Halofolliculina is a common disease on Caribbean reefs, with direct contact considered the most likely way through which the ciliates can be transmitted between infected and healthy colonies. Here we report an observation regarding a Coralliophila sp. snail feeding in proximity to a cluster of ciliates forming the typical disease band of CCI. The result of this observation is twofold. The feeding behavior of the snail may allow the passive attachment of ciliates on the body or shell of the snail resulting in indirect transport of the ciliates among colonies, which makes it eligible as a possible disease vector. Alternatively, the lesions created from snail feeding may enhance the progression of the ciliates already present on the coral as well as promoting additional infections allowing pathogens to enter through the feeding scar

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