Histopathology of crustose coralline algae a ected by white band and white patch diseases

Crustose coralline algae (CCA) are major benthic calci ers that play crucial roles in marine ecosystems, particularly coral reefs. Over the past two decades, epizootics have been reported for several CCA species on coral reefs worldwide. However, their causes remain often unknown in part because few studies have investigated CCA pathologies at a microscopic scale. We studied the cellular changes associated with two syndromes: Coralline White Band Syndrome (CWBS) and Coralline White Patch Disease (CWPD) from samples collected in Curac ̧ao, southern Caribbean. Healthy-looking tissue of diseased CCA did not di er from healthy tissue of healthy CCA. In diseased tissues of both pathologies, the three characteristic cell layers of CCA revealed cells completely depleted of protoplasmic content, but presenting an intact cell wall. In addition, CWBS showed a transition area between healthy and diseased tissues consisting of cells partially deprived of protoplasmic material, most likely corresponding to the white band characterizing the disease at the macroscopic level. This transition area was absent in CWPD. Regrowth at the lesion boundary were sometimes observed in both syndromes. Tissues of both healthy and diseased CCA were colonised by diverse boring organisms. Fungal infections associated with the diseased cells were not seen. However, other bioeroders were more abundant in diseased vs healthy CCA and in diseased vs healthy-looking tissues of diseased CCA. Although their role in the pathogenesis is unclear, this suggests that disease increases CCA susceptibility to bioerosion. Further investigations using an integrated approach are needed to carry out the complete diagnosis of these diseases. 


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