Coral reefs harbour an immense diversity of species, many of which live in association with one or more host organisms. Stony corals (Scleractinia) have been documented to host nearly 900 organisms, of which > 310 are decapod crustaceans. This associated fauna is also involuntary host to a diverse parasite fauna. Coral-dwelling gall crabs (Cryptochiridae) are obligate symbionts of scleractinian corals; however, records of their parasites are scarce, with only two named epicaridean isopod species known. Fieldwork focused on cryptochirids in the Indo-West Pacific and Caribbean yielded diverse new collections of both hosts and parasites. This new material was compared with material deposited in museum collections. Both previously described species were encountered in the newly collected material, as well as a new genus and species of bopyrid, a new genus and species of cryptoniscoid, four new species of Danalia, and the first record of a rhizocephalan parasitizing a gall crab, which is also described as a new species. Parasitism of gall crabs is more widespread than what could be assumed based on literature records, and all parasite species appear to be specific to hosts in this crab family. This is the first review of hypersymbioses between stony corals, gall crabs and the crabs' parasites and hyperparasites
A B S T R A C T
Stony corals play a key role in the marine biodiversity of many tropical coastal areas as suppliers of substrate, food and shelter for other reef organisms. Therefore, it is remarkable that coral diversity usually does not play a role in the planning of protected areas in coral reef areas. In the present study we examine how stony coral diversity patterns relate to marine park zonation and the economic value of reefs around St. Eustatius, a small island in the eastern Caribbean, with fisheries and tourism as important sources of income. The marine park contains two no-take reserves. A biodiversity survey was performed at 39 sites, 24 inside the reserves and 15 outside; 22 had a maximum depth >18 m and 17 were shallower. Data on economic value per site were obtained from the literature. Corals were photographed for the verification of identifications made in the field. Coral species richness (n = 49) was highest in the no-take reserves and species composition was mainly affected by maximum depth. No distinct relation is observed between coral diversity and fishery value or total economic value. Based on the outcome of this study we suggest that in future designs of marine park zonation in reef areas, coral diversity should be taken into consideration. This is best served by including reef areas with a continuous depth gradient from shallow flats to deep slopes.
Most hard corals require seawater with low nutrients and sediment loads to thrive. Unfortunately, on a global scale, increases in both are currently occurring due to poor coastal zone management practices. This causes damage that is often fatal to reef building corals. Plants living in near shore areas provide natural filters for sediments and nutrients, and recently managers have been harnessing the filtering capabilities of plants to protect aquatic ecosystems. In the marine environment, mangroves provide protection by filtering sediments and absorbing nutrients from runoff before it reaches coral reefs. Ritterocereus griseus, a common cactus species on Bonaire, N.A., has similar capabilities in the terrestrial realm. The following hypotheses were tested regarding cactus fences in Bonaire: smaller amounts of phosphate and sediments would be transported, and lower amounts of runoff would be collected down-slope of plots with cactus fences than plots without cactus fences. Experimental plots with cactus fences were compared to control plots without cacti. To construct plots, steel guides were used to direct simulated rainfall across plots with and without cactus fences into a collection cup at the base of the set-up. This study determined that R. griseus reduces the volumes of runoff and the amount of sediment and nutrients transported down-slope. The use of cactus fences could increase the resilience on Bonaire’s reefs by decreasing sediment and nutrient inputs to near shore waters and are a sustainable resource on the small island.
This picture guide will help with the identification of stony coral species in the Caribbean. Pictures originate from the Flower Garden Bank Marine Sanctuary.