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Host range and resistance to aspergillosis in three sea fan species from the Yucatan
Mullen, K.M.; Harvell, C.D.; Alker, A.P.; Dube, D.; Jordan-Dahlgren, E.; Ward, J.R.; Petes, L.E. (2006). Host range and resistance to aspergillosis in three sea fan species from the Yucatan. Mar. Biol. (Berl.) 149(6): 1355-1364.
In: Marine Biology. Springer: Heidelberg; Berlin. ISSN 0025-3162, more
Peer reviewed article  

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  • Mullen, K.M.
  • Harvell, C.D.
  • Alker, A.P.
  • Dube, D.
  • Jordan-Dahlgren, E.
  • Ward, J.R.
  • Petes, L.E.

    Knowledge of host range and mechanisms of disease resistance is fundamental to predicting impacts and spread of marine diseases. Prevalence of signs of aspergillosis, caused by the terrestrial fungus Aspergillus sydowii, was assessed in the Yucatan among three species of sea fan: Gorgonia ventalina, G. cf. mariae, and G. flabellum. The Yucatan is unusual in that ranges of all three sea fan species overlap at many sites along a cline of increasing depth, allowing us to evaluate potential causes of differing prevalence among species. Signs of aspergillosis were observed in all the three species. However, the prevalence of infection in G. cf. mariae, a deep-water species, was consistently low even at sites where G. ventalina was common and had moderate levels of infection. Because G. cf. mariae is a relatively small-stature sea fan, we compared the prevalence of signs in G. cf. mariae to a subset of comparatively sized G. ventalina. G. ventalina had a significantly higher prevalence of aspergillosis, indicating that size does not explain the lower prevalence in G. cf. mariae. Prevalence of disease signs on the shallow-water G. flabellum was also significantly higher than G. cf. mariae, but did not differ from G. ventalina. To test the hypothesis that higher chemical resistance accounts for the low prevalence of disease in G. cf. mariae, we measured the response of A. sydowii in culture to antifungal extracts from each sea fan species. Significantly lower fungal growth rates on extracts of G. cf. mariae than G. ventalina support the hypothesis that G. cf. mariae is more chemically resistant to aspergillosis. When comparing sea fan disease across different regions of the Yucatan, we detected significantly higher prevalence in G. ventalina near Akumal than further north near Cozumel and Puerto Morelos. In Akumal, there was a strong positive correlation between sea fan size and disease, with the largest fans showing the highest prevalence and severity in all three species. In addition, prevalence of aspergillosis in G. ventalina was density-dependent in Ak.

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