Posted by: reefrescue | May 23, 2012

Sponge disease outbreak – FWC Request

Thank you Nikole Ordway from Force-E Divers, Pura Vida Divers , Diveboat Narcosis, Splashdown Divers, Diveboat Diversity, HammerHeads Dive Club and the many divers who have sent in observations of the recent Barrel Sponge mortality event.

Ed, Reef Rescue

From FWC:

Thanks for everyone’s interest and or responses regarding the disease outbreak on X. muta. It does appear to be happening across most of the FL reef tract from all the reports filtering in. We haven’t received confirmation from the Lower or Upper Keys yet but it has been seen off BNP, Miami Dade, WPB, Broward, &Marathon.

Jose Lopez at NCRI has been working to collect samples to identify the pathogen. As some of you already know Jose went out with Ed Tichenor last week and we will be working with Jose to get samples collected from theFlorida Keysin the upcoming weeks.

Although CREMP & SECREMP has been monitoring Xesto populations in some fashion for the last several years, we may be hampered on how accurately we can assess the mortality associated with this event. Depending upon how quickly the disease progresses through the population and when we visit our survey sites the disease may have ran its course by the time we sample. Thus I’m requesting your help, if possible to document this outbreak. For those of you who have upcoming field excursions in locations where the disease has been recorded I would greatly appreciate if prevalence data could be collected. At minimum, if two 20m x 1m belt transects could be completed that records the total number of Xestos and the total number that show infection that would be exceptional data. I request the belt transect so that the area surveyed could be somewhat standardized. Based upon experience you shouldn’t count more than 10 to 15 Xestos in a 20m x 1m area. Obviously you could survey a larger area (or more transects) but I know most of you are piggy-backing this survey on top of other work and bottom time is limited. This data would help us identify where the outbreak is the worst or help us learn if its prevalence is consistent along the FRT and amongst reefs. It may also assist us in determining the direction the outbreak is moving and where it possibly started. Another piece of information that would be exceptional would be to provide an estimate of how much each colony with an infection is diseased (e.g. 1%, 5%, 25%, 80%, etc.). A simple datasheet could have 3 columns with lots of rows. The first column would indicate colony # (e.g. 1,2,3), the second presence of disease (Y/N), and a third column percent of colony affected. Each row would indicate the status of an individual colony. Alternatively, if this is too much work and requires too much time underwater a simple tally of diseased and non-diseased Xestos would be sufficient. Data sheets can be scanned and sent to me electronically or you can simply email me your tallies. Please include all metadata (date, site/reef, diver, etc. in your email. I will compile.

I know these surveys require additional work so I’m keeping my expectations low. Also, I realize most of you would be collecting this data pro-bono. Anything would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks to Ed’s early awareness and outreach, this outbreak presents an excellent opportunity to spatially document the extent of the outbreak and given enough effort we may be able to determine the before and after affects of this outbreak on the population along most of the FRT.

This would be a major contribution to science.

Rob Ruzicka

Corals Research Administrator

Fish & Wildlife Research Institute

100 8th Ave SE

St. Petersburg,FL33701

Phone: 727-896-8626 x 1134



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