Incidence of disease in Acanthurus bahianus population, Bonaire, Dutch Caribbean
Disease in the ocean is difficult to study because of the logistics involved in conducting marine research. This in turn has resulted in a lack of recognition when outbreaks do occur. Most diseases do not manifest themselves in an organism unless the individual is subject to stress that weakens its ability to fight disease. In recent years, anthropogenic stressors have increased in the world’s oceans; something thought to be increasing the incidence of disease. Recently, ocean surgeonfish, Acanthurus bahianus, in Bonaire, Curacao, and Turks and Caicos, have been observed with black spots on their bodies. There has not been any research on the subject and the causative agent has not been identified. The purpose of this study was to develop a basic understanding of the ocean surgeonfish with black spots. Using timed swims and observations, data on frequency of disease at depths, flash rate, bite rate, and percentage of time spent feeding were collected. There was a significant difference in the frequency of individuals across depth. In addition, there was a positive correlation between number of spots and percent of time spent feeding. However, there was no relationship found between number of spots and feeding rate and flash rate. This disease is affecting 89% of ocean surgeonfish. The implications of this disease are important to understand because ocean surgeonfish play a strong ecological role as herbivores in coral reef ecosystem.