Disease attacking barrel sponges on Palm Beach reefs.
A recent disease outbreak affecting giant barrel sponges (Xestospongia muta) is being documented by local scuba divers. The outbreak believed to be Sponge Orange Band (SOB) disease has been observed within the last two weeks on reefs ranging from Boynton Beach, 12 miles north to the Town of Palm Beach.
According to published research (http://people.uncw.edu/pawlikj/2011FEMSAngermeier.pdf) it has been difficult to pinpoint the exact causes of SOB; however, environmental stress is likely to decrease the fitness of sponges, which may, in turn, render them more susceptible to disease. As of now the cause of SOB disease in barrels sponges remains unidentified.
Disease epidemics can cause drastic reductions of sponge populations, with negative effects on the overall reef ecology (Webster, 2007). Sponge diseases have been documented in all major ocean bodies, with the Caribbeanrepresenting a particular hot spot (Harvell et al., 1999). They typically start with the appearance of discolored patches, followed by tissue disintegration, leaving behind the exposed skeleton. SOB disease usually results in sponge death (Cowart et al., 2006; Lopez-Legentil et al., 2008).
Watch video of Palm Beach County barrel sponge disease: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rz6Q7wt7Cx8&feature=youtu.be