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Yellow-band disease: Map

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Samples of yellow-band disease.
Left: a coral in the early stages of an attack.
Right: same coral several weeks later


Yellow-band disease (similar to Yellow Blotch disease) is a disease that attacks colonies of coral at a time when coral is already under stress from pollution, overfishing, and climate change. It is characterized by large blotches or patches of bleached, yellowed tissue on Caribbeanmarker scleractinian corals.

Yellow-band disease is a bacterial infection that spreads over coral, causing the discolored bands of pale-yellow or white lesions along the surface of an infected coral colony. The lesions are the locations where the bacteria have killed the coral’s symbiotic photosynthetic algae, called zooxanthellae which are a major energy source for the coral. This cellular damage and the loss of its major energy source cause the coral to starve, and usually cause coral death. There is evidence that global warming is causing the spread of this disease.

Mechanism of action

Coral provides a stable environment for marine organism which is destroyed by Yellow-band disease (or yellow blotch disease). The bacteria produces the characteristic pale yellow lesions and eventually kills the zooxanthellae by impairing its mitosis and its ability to carry out photosynthesis. Yellow-band disease is found on coral reefs in the Caribbeanmarker.

Impact

Yellow-band disease has severely affected reef building corals in the Caribbean. Compared to the late 1990's, current data suggests that the disease remains a severe epidemic. In one study, 10 meter belt transects were taken at various depths, sampling coral colonies in the Lesser Antilles. At a depth of 5 m, yellow band rings and lesions were found on 79% of the colonies per transect, and only 21% of the colonies in this depth range appeared healthy.

Recent research indicates that yellow-band disease continues to be in an infectious phases in the Caribbean. It has beenfound to cause infection in Pacific coral as well.

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