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Behavioral and Ecological Relationships of a Parasite and Its Hosts within a Coral Reef System

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Title:Behavioral and Ecological Relationships of a Parasite and Its Hosts within a Coral Reef System
Authors:Aeby, Greta S.
Date Issued:Jul 1991
Publisher:University of Hawai'i Press
Citation:Aeby GS. 1991. Behavioral and ecological relationships of a parasite and its hosts within a coral reef system. Pac Sci 45(3): 263-269.
Abstract:The life cycle of the digenetic trematode Plagioporus sp. includes
an intermediate stage that encysts in the scleractinian coral Porites compressa
and an adult stage that probably resides in a coral-feeding fish. Coral polyps
infected with metacercariae of Plagioporus appear as swollen nodules ranging in
color from bright pink to white and have lost their ability to retract into their
calices. The polyps' altered appearance and behavior was thought to increase
their vulnerability to predation. This study investigated the effect of parasite
encystment on coral growth and the effect offish predation on both coral growth
and on the parasites' rate of transmission. Parasitized P. compressa showed a
50% reduction in growth when compared to nonparasitized P. compressa. No
significant differences were found in growth of corals kept in predator exclusion
cages and that of corals left exposed to fish predation in either group, parasitized
or nonparasitized. Uncaged parasitized P. compressa showed a marked reduction
in number of parasitic cysts, with the infected polyps being replaced by
healthy ones. The regeneration of healthy polyps suggests that parasite removal
is beneficial to the coral, and the reduction in cyst number suggests that the
parasites' rate of transmission was enhanced by exposure of infected corals to
fish predation.
Appears in Collections: Pacific Science Volume 45, Number 3, 1991

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